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Presidential campaigns step up personal attacks

The Baltimore Sun

ASHEVILLE, N.C. - One day after John McCain's running mate escalated the vitriol of the presidential campaign by invoking a 1960s radical, Barack Obama accused Republicans of trying to distract voters from the sagging economy with "smears."

Speaking yesterday at Asheville High School, the Democratic nominee argued that McCain's record shows he shares President Bush's economic philosophy. "Senator McCain and his operatives are gambling that they can distract you with smears rather than talk to you about substance," Obama said. "They'd rather try to tear our campaign down than lift this country up. That's what you do when you're out of touch, out of ideas, and running out of time."

Last week, senior McCain adviser Greg Strimple telegraphed the strategy, telling reporters the campaign would be aggressive during the final 30 days.

The new strategy was evident Saturday and yesterday when Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin said Obama would "pal around with terrorists." Campaigning in California and Texas, the Alaska governor said she was referring to Obama's acquaintance with Bill Ayers, who helped found the Weather Underground in the 1960s. The group planned a series of bombings targeting the Capitol and the Pentagon.

Obama, who was born in 1961, has deplored Ayers' conduct but pointed out that he was a child during Ayers' radical years.

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