Attack Ads Lead up to Second Presidential Debate

The past comes to roost for McCain, Obama

While the presidential candidates gear up for the second debate Tuesday evening at Belmont University in Tennessee, arrows are flying from one candidate’s camp to the other in the form of speeches, e-mails, videos, and commercials that question their opponent’s judgment.

As the country dusts off debris from the most testing week on Wall Street in five years, Sen. John McCain, who proclaimed himself the key to unlock the partisan vote on the $700 billion bailout, has decided to aim instead at an explosive figure from Sen. Barack Obama’s past, Bill Ayers. Ayers, who served with Obama on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge board, is known most for his involvement with the Weather Underground, a radical left-wing organization responsible for the bombing of the Pentagon and the Capital Building in the early 1970s.

David Axelrod, chief strategist for the Obama campaign, says that at the time, Obama was not aware of Ayers’ violent past, according to an interview on CNN.

Sarah Palin, McCain’s pick for vice president, brought Ayers up numerous times on the stump over the weekend and again this morning at a rally in Clearwater, Florida.

“This is not a man who sees America as you and I do — as the greatest force for good in the world. This is someone who sees America as ‘imperfect enough’ to work with a former domestic terrorist who targeted his own country,” Palin said.

She also lamented about Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., who criticized America in a fiery church sermon after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Palin’s comments on Wright were contrary to McCain’s sentiments when he made clear during the primaries that he wouldn’t judge Obama for comments made by Wright.

McCain and Palin will be making several pit stops throughout Florida, where Pollster.com figures show Obama leading by 1.5 points.

Obama will only make one appearance before Tuesday’s debate, but his campaign has unleashed several videos attacking McCain’s use of negative campaigning.

Today, the Obama campaign released an ad that pits McCain against himself. The ad is meant to highlight how McCain rebuked negative campaigns but now has shifted virtually 100% of his campaign’s ad budget to negative attack ads, reports the Obama campaign.

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With Ayers and Wright entering the news, Obama’s campaign is making sure that the voting public is aware of McCain’s transgressions with the savings and loan scandals of the 1980s. They sent out an e-mail today pointing supporters to the campaign-sponsored site Keatingeconomics.com, which hosts a 13-minute documentary about McCain’s involvement with Charles Keating.

Just months into his Senate career, McCain made what he has called “the worst mistake of my life,” according to the Associated Press. He participated in two meetings with banking regulators on behalf of Keating, a friend, campaign contributor, and S&L financier who was later convicted of securities fraud.

The Senate ethics committee investigated five senators’ relationships with Keating. It cited McCain for a lesser role than the others, but faulted his “poor judgment.”

The Republican’s retort to the Keating documentary is an assertion that neither Obama nor the Democratic Party did anything to subvert the crisis on Wall Street. Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), Peter Wallison, a scholar for the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, and Doug Holtz-Eakin, a senior policy adviser for McCain, said in a conference call to press that “all roads lead back to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” insinuating that the lack of oversight of the banks led to the collapse of the credit markets worldwide. They claim that in 2005 Republicans wanted to deregulate Fannie and Freddie but Democrats would not allow the bill to pass into the Senate. Additionally, Ryan accused Obama for failing to act during the economic crisis last week.

The GOP has also filed a formal complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that the Obama campaign accepted donations from foreign nationals and excess contributions from individuals. The complaint asks the FEC to audit the $468 million raised by Obama’s campaign.

Also today, a McCain aide said that McCain plans to reduce the budgets of Medicare and Medicaid, which analysts estimate will cut $1.3 trillion over 10 years from the government programs, reports The Wall Street Journal.

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