ELKHART, Indiana (CNN) – At an energy-themed townhall on Wednesday, Barack Obama called John McCain’s energy plan “ an early Christmas list for oil and gas lobbyists” and said McCain’s reputation of being a maverick – recently touted in one of his ads – no longer applies because of repeated position changes and falling in line with White House policies.
“I know that Senator McCain likes to call himself a maverick, and the fact is, there have been times where in the past he did show independence from his party,” said Obama. “But the price he paid for his party’s nomination has been to reverse himself on position after position, and now he embraces the failed Bush policies of the last eight years.”
“You can’t be a maverick when politically it’s working for you and then not a maverick when it doesn’t work for you, when you’re seeking your party’s nomination.”
After being mocked incessantly by the McCain campaign for a week for his suggestion to voters that one way to help save gas is to inflate their tires, Obama pounced McCain’s Monday comments when he said he didn’t disagree with encouraging drivers to inflate their tires, “but I also don't think that that's a way to become energy independent.”
“Last night, after all that, Senator McCain actually said he agreed that keeping our tires inflated was a good idea,” Obama said, to laughter from the crowd. “So in the coming days it’s going to be interesting to watch this debate between John McCain and John McCain.”
A McCain spokesman responded that simply inflating car tires won’t save as much money on gas as drilling would, the starkest disagreement in the candidates’ two energy plans.
“True energy independence requires John McCain’s ‘all of the above’ approach which includes alternative energy, additional offshore oil drilling, and safe nuclear power,” wrote spokesman Tucker Bounds.
Evan Bayh, the native son widely considered to be a frontrunner to join Obama on the ticket, introduced the Illinois senator at the town hall. But besides Bayh’s presence, Obama gave no indication that he’s leaning towards picking the former Hillary Clinton supporter.
Watch Gingrich push for a vote on oil drilling.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – He led Republicans into a government shutdown in the 1990s and now former House Speaker Newt Gingrich indicates his party is seriously considering another shutdown threat to force a vote on offshore oil drilling in September.
House Republicans brought Gingrich to the Capitol Wednesday, partly to revive media coverage on their fourth day of protest speeches in the chamber. The rest of Congress is gone for August recess, but Republicans have been speaking on the closed-down House floor, calling for a special session to vote on drilling and energy.
While Gingrich did attract more camera crews, he also pointed to what may be the GOP's next strategy: if Democrats refuse to hold a separate vote on oil drilling, Republicans could try to block the votes needed to keep government running past September 30.
"Are (Democrats) really prepared to close the government in order to stop drilling?", Gingrich asked, "Because I think the country will find that to be a suicidal strategy."
The precise maneuvering of a shutdown threat is complicated, but it revolves around the fact that key government spending bills expire when the fiscal year ends on September 30th and Congress must vote next month to keep the government operating.
JACKSON, Ohio (CNN) – John McCain strayed from his prepared remarks Wednesday to label Barack Obama as “out of touch” on energy, heightening his rhetoric against Obama on the issues of offshore drilling and nuclear power.
Watch: McCain: We need an economic surge
“My opponent, Senator Obama, opposes storage and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel,” McCain told reporters after a tour of a cabinet factory here. “He opposes offshore drilling immediately, and he’s out of touch.”
The comments were not included in the original speech released by his campaign earlier in the day.
He accused Obama of planning to raise taxes on income, investment and small businesses, calling that “exactly the wrong strategy” in a bad economy.
McCain also debuted a new mantra in discussing the lagging economy, calling for an “economic surge” in the United States to complement the troop surge in Iraq, which McCain said has succeeded.
“Our surge has succeed in Iraq militarily,” McCain said. “Now we need an economic surge to keep jobs here at how and create new ones,” McCain said, without elaborating on what exactly an "economic surge" would entail.
McCain did not take questions from the media for the third consecutive day this week.
Watch Paris Hilton’s message for McCain
(CNN) - Paris Hilton has fired back in response to presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain's "Celeb" ad comparing the 27-year-old heiress to Barack Obama.
The less-than-two-minute spot was paid for by the comedy video Web site, funnyordie.com. It features Hilton sprawling in a lounge chair in a swimsuit. The socialite mocks McCain's ad, saying, "I want America to know that I'm, like, totally ready to lead."
What are Hilton's thoughts on energy policy? She says her position is a "hybrid" of Obama and McCain's. "Energy crisis solved," the heiress declares.
Related: How did Paris Hilton's response come about?
Hilton, who's built a career out of being a celebrity, also reveals her pick for vice president and plans while in office. "I'm thinking Rihanna. I'll see you at the White House. Oh, and I might paint it pink. I hope that's cool with you guys," she says.
"I'm Paris Hilton and I approve this message because I think it's totally hot."
The McCain camp responded to Hilton's ad Tuesday. "It sounds like Paris Hilton supports John McCain's 'all of the above' approach to America's energy crisis – including both alternatives and drilling. Paris Hilton might not be as big a celebrity as Barack Obama, but she obviously has a better energy plan," says McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds.
Watch Obama explain to a seven year old why he is running for President.
(CNN) –- What made Barack Obama decide to run for president? A rock to the head?
Well, not really. But when asked by a seven-year-old girl at an Indiana town hall why he decided to run for President of The United States he kidded that in fact was the reason.
“I got hit in the head with a rock,” Obama said with a chuckle. “And when I woke up I had made my announcement, and then it was too late”
The presumptive Democratic nominee went on to explain he was only joking.
“I am running for president because I’ve got two daughters just like you,” he said.
Watch what Obama said Wednesday morning in Indiana.
(CNN) – The economy is still issue number one for Americans this election cycle - significantly outweighing the war in Iraq, immigration and health-care reform.
According to the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll, 48 percent of those surveyed said John McCain and Barack Obama’s economic policy would be the most important issue when deciding who to vote for this fall.
Watch: Poll findings translate differently for McCain and Obama
But when it comes to who is the better choice to fix the economy, Obama is their pick by a 54-43 percent margin .
CNN Election Center: Where do the candidates stand on economic stimulus?
In a November poll, 29 percent of Americans said the economy was their top concern and the war in Iraq was a close second at 28 percent.
But in the latest poll, conducted from July 27 through 29, only 18 percent ranked the war as their top concern and health care was close behind at 13 percent.
CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said that gas prices are partially to blame for the nation's shift toward the economy as the top issue.
“This time last year, most people thought the presidential election would be all about the war in Iraq,” Holland pointed out. “But starting in December, the economy has been a bigger issue than Iraq. And when gas prices started going through the roof, the number of voters who said the economy was their number-one issue jumped to nearly half.”
CNN Election Center: Where do the candidates stand on the Iraq War?
The most recent poll on gas prices, also conducted July 27-29, showed 75 percent saying the price of gas was a financial hardship and 52 percent saying the price of gas will never go down.
CNN’s latest findings are based on phone interviews with 1,041 Americans, and has a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percent.
The new McCain ad suggests Sen. Obama's policies would lead to higher taxes.
(CNN) – Even after becoming the target of a spoof by celebutante Paris Hilton, the McCain campaign is keeping up the celebrity theme in its new advertisement targeting Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee.
Like the McCain camp’s earlier “Celeb” ad, the new ad “Family,” refers to Obama as “the biggest celebrity in the world.” But the new 30-second spot does not use images of pop singer Britney Spears, Hollywood starlet Paris Hilton, or any other celebrities.
The McCain camp stirred controversy and generated media buzz last week when it unveiled “Celeb,” an advertisement that appeared to suggest Obama lacked substance – a charge frequently leveled at Hollywood celebrities like Hilton and Spears. The Obama campaign immediately responded to “Celeb” with an ad called “Low Road.”
McCain’s celebrity-themed attacks on Obama also caught the attention of the Hilton family. Kathy Hilton, Paris Hilton’s mother and a contributor to the McCain campaign, called “Celeb” a “waste of money” and Paris Hilton has weighed in with an online video spoofing “Celeb” and poking fun at McCain’s age.
“Family” will air in 11 key states, according to the McCain campaign.
UPDATE: The Obama campaign has released a statement responding to McCain's "Family" ad. "Is the biggest proponent of George Bush’s tired, failed policies ready to bring about change? Another day brings another dishonest attack from John McCain," said Obama spokesman Bill Burton in the statement. Burton also disputed the suggestion that Obama would raise taxes if elected. "It’s time to retire these old policies and bring new energy to America,” Burton added.
(Full script after the jump)
Sen. John McCain talks with Marshall University's football team in Huntington, West Virginia. Photo credit: Peter Hamby/CNN
A supporter of Barack Obama sports his own version of the Illinois senator's campaign logo at an event in Elkhart, Indiana. Photo credit: Sasha Johnson/CNN
(CNN) - Sen. Barack Obama on Wednesday called Sen. Evan Bayh "one of the finest United States senators that we have," but gave no mention of what kind of vice president he thinks Bayh could be.
The Indiana senator, who introduced Obama, has been at the heart of the VP buzz. Political pundits had speculated that Obama might tap him to be No. 2 as early as this week because of their joint appearance.
Bayh, a former two-term governor of Indiana, was a big supporter of Hillary Clinton during the primaries. Advocates of an Obama-Bayh ticket say he'd help unify the party and could shore up some of Obama's weak spots because of his time on the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services Committees.
ELKHART, Indiana (CNN) - The Obama traveling press corps arrived at its hotel Tuesday night to find not only their room keys waiting on a table in the lobby but white packages containing 'Obama Energy Plan' tire gauges.
"Happy Birthday, Barack Obama," read the note that came in the package from the Republican National Committee in Washington, D.C. "In celebration of Barack Obama's special day, the RNC is sending you an important gift in his honor."
It then quotes Obama's contention that properly inflated tires would save as much energy as could be gained by increased drilling.
"Instead of actually increasing America's domestic oil supply, this is how Obama thinks you should try to alleviate your pain at the pump," the note ends, with "best wishes" from the RNC.
The gauges were sent to producers from the five major TV networks and most print reporters. They came in several colors, including gold, blue and green.
Upon seeing the gauges, Obama spokeswoman Linda Douglass said, "You can use it to check all the hot air coming out of [McCain's] Straight Talk Express.
A senior adviser handed out gauges on McCain's campaign plane and they were passed out outside Obama's energy speech in Lansing, Michigan, on Monday.
"They think it's funny that they're making fun of something that is actually true," Obama said Tuesday in Ohio. "They need to do their homework."