(CNN) - Barack Obama's campaign is linking John McCain to the infamous Jack Abramoff scandal that ended several Republicans' political careers three years ago in a new campaign ad hitting Georgia airwaves Wednesday.
The 30-second spot is the Obama campaign’s second negative ad in the past 24 hours. It attacks the Arizona senator for his association with former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed, one of the Republicans implicated in the scandal.
The ad also seems to suggest McCain didn't call Reed to testify before a Senate panel he chaired in return for political favors.
“When the Senate investigated, the senator in charge never even called Reed to testify….And that senator? John McCain. And who’s now raising money for McCain’s campaign? Ralph Reed," the ad's narrator says. "For 26 years in Washington, John McCain’s played the same old games. We just can’t afford more of the same.”
The TV spot sparked a sharp rebuke from McCain campaign spokesman Brian Rogers, who called it "ridiculous," and noted Obama's connection to Bill Ayers, the current University of Chicago professor and one-time leader of the militant group "Weather Undeground."
“If Barack Obama wants to have a discussion about truly questionable associations, let’s start with his relationship with the unrepentant terrorist William Ayers, at whose home Obama’s political career was reportedly launched," Rogers said. "Mr. Ayers was a leader of the Weather Underground, a terrorist group responsible for countless bombings against targets including the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon and numerous police stations, courthouses and banks."
Reed, who lost a bid in 2006 for lieutenant governor of Georgia, had promoted a McCain fundraiser last week in the Atlanta area that netted the presumptive Republican nominee $1.75 million in campaign cash. Though Reed did not attend the event (after intense Democratic criticisms), he circulated "special invitations" to several Republicans in the Atlanta area seeking donations.
That prompted several watchdog groups to call on McCain to cancel the event - although his campaign noted the fundraiser was sponsored by the Republican National Committee, not Reed.
DENVER (CNN) – What can Barack Obama do to reverse his sudden slide in the polls? Here’s an idea: surprise everyone and name Hillary Clinton as his running mate.
It would turn the Democratic National Convention into a love-in. 4,438 delegates locking arms and singing "Kum-Ba-Ya’’!
Consider this finding from the new Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll out Wednesday night. A bare majority of Clinton supporters, 52 percent say they will vote for Obama. Twenty one percent favor McCain, while 27 percent are still undecided or say they will vote for "someone else.’’
Nearly half of Clinton’s supporters are still not on board with Obama!
The holdouts tend to like McCain more than Obama and have more confidence in McCain’s ability to be commander-in-chief.
Would Clinton add to the ticket? Apparently. The poll shows Obama leading McCain by three points. If Clinton were at the top of the ticket, she would be leading McCain by six.
LAS CRUCES, New Mexico (CNN) - John McCain may have expected immigration to be the hot topic in this New Mexico community, less than 50 miles from the border.
But curiosity over the vice presidential search is as high here as in the media. At a town hall Wednesday, one of the very first questioners asked McCain, " I heard a rumor that you're going to pick a pro-life VP, is that true?"
The presumptive GOP nominee gave his usual answer about the campaign still going through the process of picking the vice presidential nominee while emphasizing his prolife credentials.
"I respect the views of others but I also happen to believe that the noblest words ever written, in history, were those that said, we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all of us are created equal, and endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," he said. Then he added to applause from the audience," I think that life applies to those that are not born as well as those that are born."
(CNN) – Ohio Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones has died after suffering from a serious aneurysm, medical officials said Wednesday. She was 58.
Tubbs Jones, in her fifth term representing parts of Cleveland and its suburbs, was the first black woman to represent Ohio in the House of Representatives.
(CNN) – Top Obama foreign policy advisors Susan Rice and Richard Clarke said Wednesday that John McCain had a tendency to “shoot first and ask questions later” – accusing him of “itching for war” with Iran and Syria, and alleging that he pushed for U.S. military involvement in Iraq long before the Bush administration did.
The comments came after John McCain said Wednesday that he had not been questioning Barack Obama’s patriotism, as the Democrat’s campaign had charged, but his judgment. “Senator Obama has made it clear that he values withdrawal from Iraq above victory in Iraq, even today with victory in sight,” McCain said on the campaign trail in New Mexico. “Over and over again, he has advocated unconditional withdrawal – regardless of the facts on the ground.”
Rice shot back on a conference call with reporters that McCain was in fact attacking Obama’s integrity and patriotism with “Karl Rove ‘say anything, do anything’ gutter politics.”
She called McCain’s remarks “the height of hypocrisy” since “McCain has a long track record of supporting a reckless and extreme foreign policy. His tendency is to shoot first and ask questions later.”
Listen: Rice and Clarke slam McCain
(CNN) - For Barack Obama, the Democratic convention and the bump in the polls that is expected to follow couldn't come soon enough.
According to a new CNN poll of polls, the Illinois senator's once-comfortable lead over McCain is down to only 1 point nationwide - potentially troubling news for Obama as he gets set to accept his party's nomination in Denver.
Obama now leads McCain 45 percent to 44 percent, down from a 3-point margin in a CNN poll of polls yesterday and down from an 8-point lead in mid July.
The seemingly rapid drop in the polls could be due to the reemergence of national security issues following the crisis in Georgia, giving McCain an anvil to hammer away at Obama's inexperience. When Russian troops invaded Georgia two weeks ago, McCain vigorously denounced the action and warned of consequences. Obama's reaction was more measured, and potential voters noticed, CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider said.
"Which candidate do voters believe is better qualified to deal with Russia? McCain by better than 2-1," Schneider said. "More experience in military matters and foreign affairs."
CNN Election Center: Check out the latest polls
In a year when the Republican brand is reeling, CNN Senior Political Researcher Alan Silverleib says the Obama campaign officials should be concerned their lead appears to have become so tenuous.
“This ought to be a landslide Democratic year, but right now the Obama campaign is at risk of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory," Silverleib said. "They’ve been slow to respond as McCain has successfully raised a series of questions about Obama’s basic fitness for the presidency."
"The pressure is mounting for Obama to regain the initiative as he heads to Denver for what is certain to be one of the most critical weeks of his campaign
But can the Democratic presidential candidate rely on the post-convention bounce? Maybe. From 1976 to 2004 every major party nominee has gained ground - 8 points on average - in polls taken immediately after the convention. But in the last presidential cycle, neither President Bush nor Sen. John Kerry received any bounce from either of their conventions.
(CNN)—In the latest installment of CNN=Politics Daily, Barack Obama is raising the temperature on his rhetoric against John McCain. CNN’s Jessica Yellin reports on the presumptive Democratic nominee’s fighting words.
Plus: John McCain is staying mum about where his vice presidential pick might stand on the issue of abortion. CNN’s Ed Henry has the latest in the veepstakes guessing game.
Also: Obama seems to be losing his polling advantage over McCain, according to the latest CNN Poll of Polls. Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider explains why the race could be tightening.
Finally: As speculation swirls around who will be asked to fill the No. 2 slot on both parties’ presidential tickets, Internet Reporter Abbi Tatton takes you online to the VP prediction markets.
Click here to subscribe to CNN=Politics Daily.
(CNN) – Some Republican politicians are skipping their party’s convention this year - but top McCain surrogate and GOP vice presidential contender Mitt Romney is heading to both.
A Romney representative confirmed Wednesday that he plans to crash the Democrats’ party in Denver next week.
“Governor Romney will speak to the press to set the record straight on John McCain and make the case for his election,” said a spokesman for the former Massachusetts governor.
Details are still being worked out - but contrary to reports, he will not be addressing a Republican “counter-rally.” It is more likely that he will hold a press conference accompanied by several other Republicans.
Romney was McCain’s most critical opponent during the Republican race for the nomination, but has since become a stalwart supporter. He is believed to rank highly on McCain’s vice presidential shortlist.
The Arizona senator is expected to name his choice for VP at an event in Ohio next Friday, the day after the Democratic convention ends.
(CNN) - On his first campaign conference call as a surrogate for John McCain, Rudy Giuliani accused an unpaid advisor for Barack Obama’s presidential effort of engaging in a freelance diplomatic “mission” when he met with a Syrian official last month in Damascus.
Giuliani said Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel who also served as the first Jewish U.S. ambassador to Egypt, had met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Kurtzer did not meet with the Syrian president during his trip, which was not connected to Obama’s presidential effort.
He did meet with Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Moallem while in Damascus for a legal conference co-sponsored by the American Bar Association and paid for by donations from a Canadian oil company and Syrian corporations.
Discussions should only take place "when you have confidence that you're not being used," said Giuliani, charging that Kurtzer’s actions might be a result of an Obama policy of “negotiating with dictators without precondition."
Listen: Giuliani takes aim at Obama's advisor
Kurtzer, who advises Obama’s campaign on Middle East affairs, has been an advocate of diplomatic engagement with the government of Syria.
McCain foreign policy advisor Randy Scheunemann, asked about his lobbying work on behalf of the nation of Georgia, responded that his actions were different because they were not “covert.” The reporter who asked the question, Ron Kampeas of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, abruptly dropped off the call. He later alleged that the campaign had cut him off.
(UPDATE with Obama campaign response after the jump)
UPDATE: Obama foreign policy advisor Susan Rice responded to Giuliani’s charges on a Wednesday afternoon conference call with reporters, saying “there is nothing but falsehood and distortion” in the comments.
“[Kurtzer] did not represent the Obama campaign or Senator Obama, he went as a private citizen. And so John McCain who himself sat down one-on-one and had a meeting with the leader of the same country in its most active moment of support for terrorism – to criticize a private citizen for taking a private trip is absolutely outrageous and dishonest,” said Rice. “If John McCain wants to be held accountable for the travel and the conduct of every private citizen who may have at one point or another offered him advice then let’s have that discussion.”
(CNN) – Days before Democrats meet in Denver to name their presidential nominee, Barack Obama’s campaign and the national party leaders called for a new commission to deal with many of the primary season controversies that dogged the party this election cycle, and to develop a system to end the frontloading of the election calendar.
The campaign, along with the Democratic National Committee, said Wednesday that they would ask the party’s Rules Committee, which meets Saturday in Denver, to create a new commission that would re-vamp the primary season calendar. The goal would be to make sure no votes were held before March, with the exception of a handful of party-sanctioned contests in February.
The new group would consider reducing the number of superdelegates – elected officials and party leaders who are not bound by primary results.
It would also consider undefined “changes” to the caucus system. The Clinton campaign, which fared poorly in many caucus states, complained during the primary season that the voting system was an unfair one.
Recommendations from a similar group tasked with addressing the issue – and reducing the disproportionate influence of Iowa and New Hampshire in the presidential nominating process - led the party to adopt a plan last summer that prohibited nearly every state, except those that won a special lottery, from holding their primary before the first Tuesday in February.