(CNN) - John McCain raised questions about Barack Obama's background and questioned the Illinois senator's truthfulness at a rally in New Mexico Monday, one day before the two White House hopefuls square off at the second presidential debate.
The comments, which came hours after Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin publicly questioned Obama's patriotism while raising questions about his connections to onetime radical William Ayers, are among McCain's harshest language to date on the campaigning trail and signal the campaign is ratcheting its attacks on the Illinois senator with less than 30 days remaining until Election Day.
"I don’t need lessons about telling the truth to American people," McCain will say according to prepared text sent out by his campaign. "And were I ever to need any improvement in that regard, I probably wouldn’t seek advice from a Chicago politician."
McCain delivered the remarks at a rally in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the hardly-fought battleground state where the latest CNN poll of polls shows the Arizona senator trailing slightly.
"My opponent’s touchiness every time he is questioned about his record should make us only more concerned," McCain also said. "For a guy who’s already authored two memoirs, he’s not exactly an open book. It’s as if somehow the usual rules don’t apply, and where other candidates have to explain themselves and their records, Senator Obama seems to think he is above all that."
The new language is part of the McCain campaign's effort to move away from the country's economic crisis as the primary narrative on the campaign trail, aides told CNN's Dana Bash earlier Monday. McCain, the aides say, will try to reframe the economic issue into an overall theme that Obama is still a virtual unknown, and is not the right person to steer the country through its current financial turmoil.
"All people want to know is: What has this man ever actually accomplished in government? What does he plan for America? In short: Who is the real Barack Obama?" McCain said.
Read excerpts from McCain's speech Monday
The Obama campaign quickly responded to the comments, calling McCain the "one truly angry candidate in this race.
“On a day when the markets are plunging and the credit crisis is putting millions of jobs at risk, the one truly angry candidate in this race kept up his strategy of ‘turning the page’ on the economy by unleashing another frustrated tirade against Barack Obama," Spokesman Tommy Vietor said.
My opponent has invited serious questioning by announcing a few weeks ago that he would quote - “take off the gloves.” Since then, whenever I have questioned his policies or his record, he has called me a liar.
Rather than answer his critics, Senator Obama will try to distract you from noticing that he never answers the serious and legitimate questions he has been asked. But let me reply in the plainest terms I know. I don’t need lessons about telling the truth to American people. And were I ever to need any improvement in that regard, I probably wouldn’t seek advice from a Chicago politician.
My opponent’s touchiness every time he is questioned about his record should make us only more concerned. For a guy who’s already authored two memoirs, he’s not exactly an open book. It’s as if somehow the usual rules don’t apply, and where other candidates have to explain themselves and their records, Senator Obama seems to think he is above all that. Whatever the question, whatever the issue, there’s always a back story with Senator Obama. All people want to know is: What has this man ever actually accomplished in government? What does he plan for America? In short: Who is the real Barack Obama? But ask such questions and all you get in response is another barrage of angry insults.
Our current economic crisis is a good case in point. What was his actual record in the years before the great economic crisis of our lifetimes?
This crisis started in our housing market in the form of subprime loans that were pushed on people who could not afford them. Bad mortgages were being backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and it was only a matter of time before a contagion of unsustainable debt began to spread. This corruption was encouraged by Democrats in Congress, and abetted by Senator Obama.
Senator Obama has accused me of opposing regulation to avert this crisis. I guess he believes if a lie is big enough and repeated often enough it will be believed. But the truth is I was the one who called at the time for tighter restrictions on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that could have helped prevent this crisis from happening in the first place.
Senator Obama was silent on the regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and his Democratic allies in Congress opposed every effort to rein them in. As recently as September of last year he said that subprime loans had been, quote, “a good idea.” Well, Senator Obama, that “good idea” has now plunged this country into the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
To hear him talk now, you’d think he’d always opposed the dangerous practices at these institutions. But there is absolutely nothing in his record to suggest he did. He was surely familiar with the people who were creating this problem. The executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have advised him, and he has taken their money for his campaign. He has received more money from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac than any other senator in history, with the exception of the chairman of the committee overseeing them. Did he ever talk to the executives at Fannie and Freddie about these reckless loans? Did he ever discuss with them the stronger oversight I proposed? If Senator Obama is such a champion of financial regulation, why didn’t he support these regulations that could have prevented this crisis in the first place? He won’t tell you, but you deserve an answer.
Who is the real Senator Obama? Is he the candidate who promises to cut middle class taxes, or the politician who voted to raise middle class taxes? Is he the candidate who talks about regulation or the politician who took money from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and turned a blind eye as they ran our economy into a ditch?
Is he the candidate who promises change, or is he the politician who has bought into everything that is wrong with Washington? We can’t change the system with someone who’s never fought the system.
Washington is on the wrong track and I’m going to set it right. The American people know my record. They know I am going to change Washington, because I’ve done it before. They know I’m going to reform our broken institutions in Washington and on Wall Street because I’ve done it before. They know I’m going to deliver relief to the middle class, because that’s what I’ve done.