WASHINGTON (CNN) – John McCain’s campaign manager charged Thursday that Barack Obama falsely accused the McCain campaign of injecting race into the presidential contest.
"Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck. It's divisive, negative, shameful and wrong," McCain campaign manger Rick Davis said in a prepared statement sent to reporters one day after Obama alluded to his own race during several stops in Missouri.
An Obama spokesman immediately denied the assertion, but noted that the presumptive Democratic nominee believes that the McCain campaign was “using the same old low-road politics to distract voters from the real issues.”
“This is a race about big challenges - a slumping economy, a broken foreign policy, and an energy crisis for everyone but the oil companies,” Obama spokesman Bill Burton said. “Barack Obama in no way believes that the McCain campaign is using race as an issue, but he does believe they’re using the same old low-road politics to distract voters from the real issues in this campaign, and those are the issues he’ll continue to talk about.”
At three stops in the battleground state of Missouri, Obama told audiences that his opponent is trying to make voters “scared” of him because he doesn’t look like past presidents – an apparent reference to being black - and has a “funny name.”
“Nobody really thinks that Bush or McCain have a real answer for the challenges we face,” Obama said at an appearance Wednesday in Springfield, Missouri. “So what they're going to try to do is make you scared of me. You know, he's not patriotic enough. He's got a funny name. You know, he doesn't look like all those other presidents on those dollar bills, you know. He's risky.”
This is not the first time Obama has delivered this line. He made similar comments dating back to the Democratic presidential primary. But a senior McCain advisor told CNN Thursday that Davis reacted strongly because Obama was directly responding to a new McCain campaign ad.
“It is a disgusting accusation and we are compelled to respond,” said advisor Steve Schmidt. “This campaign will not allow John McCain to be smeared in this way.”
Schmidt added: “We sat here during the Democratic Primary, waiting with dread for this day to arrive, that Obama would be criticized on national security or some other issue, and he would play the race card.”
The political ad, which the McCain campaign released Wednesday, features Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. The McCain campaign is ceding the point that Obama has reached celebrity status, but argues that does not qualify him to be the next president.