John McCain is mocked as an out-of-touch, out-of-date computer illiterate in a television commercial out Friday from Barack Obama as the Democrat begins his sharpest barrage yet on McCain's long Washington career.
The new fighting spirit comes as McCain has been gaining in the polls and some Democrats have been expressing concern the Obama campaign has not been aggressive enough. Obama's campaign says the escalation will involve advertising and pushes made by the candidate, running mate Joe Biden and other surrogates across the country.
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"Today is the first day of the rest of the campaign," Obama campaign manager David Plouffe says in a campaign strategy memo. "We will respond with speed and ferocity to John McCain's attacks and we will take the fight to him, but we will do it on the big issues that matter to the American people."
The newest ad showcasing their hard line includes unflattering footage of McCain at a hearing in the early '80s, wearing giant glasses and an out-of-style suit, interspersed with shots of a disco ball, a clunky phone, an outdated computer and a Rubik's Cube.
"1982, John McCain goes to Washington," an announcer says over chirpy elevator music. "Things have changed in the last 26 years, but McCain hasn't.
"He admits he still doesn't know how to use a computer, can't send an e-mail, still doesn't understand the economy, and favors two hundred billion in new tax cuts for corporations, but almost nothing for the middle class," it says. It shows video of McCain getting out of a golf cart with former President George H.W. Bush and closes with a photo of him standing with the current President Bush at the White House. "After one president who was out of touch, we just can't afford more of the same."
Obama spokesman Dan Pfeiffer said the campaign was not making an issue of the 72-year-old McCain's age, but the time he's spent in Washington.
"Our economy wouldn't survive without the Internet, and cyber-security continues to represent one our most serious national security threats," Pfeiffer said. "It's extraordinary that someone who wants to be our president and our commander in chief doesn't know how to send an e-mail."
McCain has said he relies on his wife and staff to work the computer for him and that he doesn't use e-mail.
The ad is being coupled with another positive spot that highlights Obama's change message, arguing he will provide better health care and tax breaks and bring people together.
A spokesman for the Republican National Committee, Alex Conant, accused Obama of "trying to destroy" McCain and running mate Sarah Palin with personal attacks.
"This is more evidence that Obama's politics of hope is just empty words," Conant said in a statement.
Obama has already been showing a newly aggressive tone on the campaign trail in the past week, fighting back against the notion that McCain and Palin will bring change to Washington. Some Democrats have privately groused that Obama is attacking Palin and arguing that job should fall to Biden.
Plouffe made it clear in his memo that the vice presidential nominee will be at the center of the debate going forward. "Senator Biden will be integral to that effort, both in pushing back on the lies that we'll continue to see from our opponents, and in keeping the debate focused on delivering for everyday Americans," Plouffe wrote. He argued that the campaign welcomes a debate over who is best equipped to change the country.
Obama's campaign says the escalation is not in response to the changing dynamics of the race, but part of a planned strategy timed to the final weeks of the campaign after mourning the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. They insist that although McCain may have gotten a bump in national polls since his pick of Palin, Obama still is best positioned in battleground states for an Electoral College win.