Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama have talked about waging a more respectful, positive campaign for the presidency. We’re still waiting.
Even on a slow day in the typically slow Fourth of July week, the first real quiet period in this marathon campaign, on a day when the presumptive Republican nominee wasn’t even on the campaign trail, the campaign war rooms work overtime.
Dozens of dirt diggers and professional “message” shapers from both campaigns, plus countless other political groups, wage an endless battle to score points in the 24/7 news cycle, while also trying to rev up supporters and shake money loose from donors.
Consider a sampling of messages from a single, slow day, Wednesday, July 2:
John McCain interview on ABC’s Good Morning America, from Colombia. He talks up the Colombia Free Trade Agreement and brushes off the suggestion that he has downplayed his own expertise on the economy: “I said that I am stronger on national security issues because of all the time I spent in the military and others. I’m very strong on the economy. I understand it. I have a lot more experience than my opponent.”
E-mail from the Obama campaign on McCain’s trip: “This is more of the Washington politics that has left American working families struggling to compete in a global economy by putting the lobbyists and special interests first. Just yesterday, the New York Times reported that John McCain’s top adviser, Charlie Black, made $1.8-million lobbying for Colombia’s leading oil exporter on energy and trade issues — including the free trade agreement that McCain is now headed to Colombia to promote.”
E-mail from the Democratic National Committee: The headline reads, MCCAIN WATCH: JOHN MCCAIN VS. AMERICAN JOBS. “While John McCain travels to Colombia and Mexico this week, he’ll be talking about how trade creates jobs. What he won’t mention is that the trade deals he has favored have created jobs overseas, not here at home.”
E-mail from the Republican National Committee: “In a stunning act of hypocrisy, Barack Obama has broken his pledge to accept public financing for the 2008 general election. … There’s only one way John McCain and our candidates can counter the Obama Democrats’ massive haul of campaign cash … and that’s through your generous support of the RNC.”
DNC conference call with reporters: On the line are DNC vice chairwoman Linda Chavez-Thompson and Mark Levinson, chief economist for the labor group Unite Here. “We have seen that now, from every indication, Sen. McCain is going to follow George Bush’s failed economic policies. We can’t afford that.”
McCain news conference in Cartagena, Colombia: He talks about drug interdiction, the benefits of lifting tariffs on Colombian exports, and denies the recently publicized recollection of U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., that on a 1987 diplomatic trip to Nicaragua, McCain had manhandled an associate of President Daniel Ortega.
Conference call with reporters by the Service Employees International Union: The group touts its $85-million voter mobilization effort in key states. “We want to make it really clear to voters if they want to vote for John McCain, it’s as good as voting for George Bush,” said secretary-treasurer Anna Burger.
E-mail from American Political Action Committee (AmeriPAC): The group bashes Obama on gun rights: “The gun-control views of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama are an ‘obamination’ of the Second Amendment.”
McCain campaign conference call featuring Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, on Obama and Iraq: He says he’s “concerned” that a top surrogate for the Obama campaign said Obama hasn’t changed his views on the need to leave Iraq. “I just believe that raises serious questions as to the sensibility of that position given what’s going on in Iraq right now — what’s going on on the ground.”
Obama speech in Colorado Springs, Colo., promoting national service: “This will not be a call issued in one speech or one program — this will be a central cause of my presidency. We will ask Americans to serve. We will create new opportunities for Americans to serve. And we will direct that service to our most pressing national challenges.”
E-mail from Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor: “Instead of questioning Barack Obama’s consistent call for a new direction in Iraq and Afghanistan, John McCain should explain why he is offering nothing more than four more years of a failed foreign policy that has … failed to bring Osama bin Laden to justice for over six years.”
Obama campaign conference call: On the line to discuss Latin America policy is former Assistant Secretary of State Robert Gelbard and Latin America expert Dan Restrepo: They dismiss McCain’s Colombia trip. “It is a photo op,” one says.
E-mail from McCain campaign announcing new Spanish language radio ad in Florida: “This is Tony Villamil speaking, ex-director of Tourism, Commerce and Economic Affairs of Florida. … Remember who stands for prosperity in Florida, our country and our hemisphere. His name is John McCain.”
DNC news release responding to McCain’s ABC interview earlier in the day: The DNC disputes McCain’s claim that he never said he wasn’t an expert on the economy, providing a list of YouTube video clips of McCain saying just that.
“Apparently John McCain’s campaign thinks the voters haven’t already noticed that he was right when he admitted he doesn’t understand the economy as well as he should.”
E-mail from the liberal group MoveOn.org: “It’s become pretty clear that pundits love John McCain. ‘We’re his base,’ MSNBC host Chris Matthews famously said. So if you’re looking for some, er, straight talk on Sen. McCain — where’s a person to go? That’s why we’re launching McCain Watch — a zippy e-mail with the presidential news you most need to know (but won’t hear elsewhere) about Sen. McCain.”
RNC conference call: It declares that Obama is out of step with voters in North Dakota, where Obama was to campaign the next day.
McCain campaign news release: The “in case you missed it” release touts an Associated Press story headlined “Bipartisanship Marks McCain’s Senate Tenure.”
National Jewish Democratic Council news release: The “fact sheet” charges that McCain has “flip-flopped” on issues ranging from offshore drilling to Social Security privatization to abortion rights.
Times staff writer Wes Allison contributed to this report. Adam C. Smith can be reached at email@example.com