Published October 11, 2008
John McCain is performing a balancing act in his campaign's recent attempts to sow doubts about Barack Obama: On the one hand the McCain campaign is attacking Obama hard on his connections to controversial figures and groups, but on the other hand, McCain has called on supporters to show respect for his rival.
The campaign's hard-hitting approach was evident all week in attacks that highlighted Obama's connections to 1960s radical William Ayers and his past work with a low-income advocacy group that now faces voter fraud accusations.
But McCain, at a Friday rally, tried to tamp down some of his supporters' anti-Obama chants by saying his rival was "a decent person," with whom he respectfully disagreed.
"He's being very honest with voters," McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds told FOX News, adding that the campaign didn't intend to retreat from its criticism of Obama, his past and his policies.
With less than 30 days to go until Election Day, policy arguments took center stage Saturday, as McCain, in Davenport, Iowa, focused on the economy and other issues.
And Sarah Palin, McCain's running mate, has attacked Obama on his past associations during campaign stops during the past week, questioning whether he is fit to lead the country. But at an event Saturday in Johnstown, Pa., she mostly stuck to rallying supporters behind McCain and assailing Obama for his stance on abortion.
McCain and Palin are being "respectful, and they also need to be examining his record versus his rhetoric. You need to examine who Barack Obama really is, what he's saying about the associations, whether he's being truthful with voters," Bounds told FOX News.
"Our argument is Obama is not being truthful about his associations like he's not being truthful about his economic plan and he is not being truthful about his economic record," Bounds added.
McCain himself was booed on Friday at a town-hall event when he assured a supporter that he had nothing to fear if Obama were elected president.
"If you want a fight, we will fight," McCain said after supporters pressed him to be rougher on Obama. "But we will be respectful. I admire Senator Obama and his accomplishments."
When people booed, he cut them off.
"I don't mean that has to reduce your ferocity," he said. "I just meant to say you have to be respectful."
Palin launched the latest round of character attacks last weekend, saying that Obama was "palling around with terrorists" because of his association with Ayers, one of the founders of the group Weather Underground. The group was linked to several bombings of public buildings during the Vietnam War era.
Obama, who was a child when the group was active, has denounced Ayers' radical views and activities.
Palin also told FOX News political analyst William Kristol last Sunday that she wanted the campaign to attack Obama on his relationship with his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who criticized America after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks for its mistreatment of minorities.
Palin told Kristol she didn't understand "why that association isn't discussed more, because those were appalling things that that pastor has said about our great country, and to have sat in the pews for 20 years and listened to that -- with, I don't know, a sense of condoning it, I guess, because he [Obama] didn't get up and leave -- to me, that does say something about character.
"But, you know, I guess that would be a John McCain call on whether he wants to bring that up."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.