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McCain and Obama campaigns go negative in home stretch

With a month to Election Day, the presidential candidates go after unsavory connections in each other’s past.

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Numerous newspaper articles have noted that Obama’s connection to Ayers is small, and that he has denounced Ayers’s radical acts. Ayers, too, has renounced his past, and is now a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He did hold a fundraiser for Obama in the 1990s, early in the senator’s political career, and the two served on a charity board together, but by all appearances, the men are not close.

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The McCain campaign also plans to use Obama’s connection to convicted felon Rezko in another character attack. Rezko was involved in helping Obama purchase his Chicago home, a move that Obama has since called “boneheaded.”

Rezko’s conviction for corruption is not related to the Obama home purchase, but the McCain campaign can look forward to Rezko’s sentencing on Oct. 28 – just days before the Nov. 4 election – as a hook to go after Obama’s character again.

Then there’s the issue of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s former pastor, who was renounced by the Illinois senator for his outrageous comments. McCain has said he won’t use the Wright issue against Obama, but Ms. Palin spoke about Wright in an interview with The New York Times published Monday.

“I don’t know why that association isn’t discussed more, because those were appalling things that that pastor had said about our great country,” Palin said.

McCain camp signaled shift

Late last week, the McCain campaign had telegraphed that the mud was about to fly, allowing the Obama campaign to prepare and respond in kind.

On Sunday, Obama released an ad on the economic crisis that attacked McCain as “erratic” in his approach.

Speaking Sunday in Asheville, N.C., Obama blamed McCain for going negative. McCain’s strategists “are gambling that he can distract you with smears rather than talk to you about substance,” Obama said, according to the Associated Press.

Over the weekend and into Monday, the McCain campaign faced criticism by fellow Republicans over its strategy. Karl Rove, the architect of President Bush’s two electoral victories, wondered out loud why the McCain team had announced in advance that it was going to unload with attacks on Obama’s character.

“Some of the best strategies are the strategies you don’t call attention to,” said Mr. Rove. He added that, as of Sunday, Obama had leads in enough states to win the election.

On his map, Obama has 273 electoral votes, three more than needed to win. The seven tossup states he listed – Nevada, Florida, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, and North Carolina – were all won by Bush four years ago, which is bad news for McCain.

Speaking Monday morning on MSNBC, former McCain adviser Mike Murphy was also blunt about McCain’s prospects. “I think he’s losing, which is why he needs a big change-up in his strategy,” Mr. Murphy said.