McCain: “Who is the real Senator Obama?”

John McCain opened a new line of attack today on Sen. Obama rhetorically asking if voters really know him. Republicans have been calling for McCain to unload a bit more on Obama fearing that playing the “nice” card would inevitably end in an Obama victory.

Video of McCain making the statement:

Report from USAToday:

ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — Behind in the polls, Republican John McCain on Monday called Democratic rival Barack Obama a liar as he leveled his harshest criticism yet, and said the campaign boils down to one basic question: Who is Obama really?

Adopting an aggressive tone on the eve of their second debate of the season, the Republican presidential candidate criticized Obama’s ties to Chicago, his legislative record and even his pair of best-selling memoirs.

McCain, speaking about the financial crisis, took offense at Obama’s accusation that McCain opposed regulation that would have prevented the credit crunch. “I guess he believes if a lie is big enough and repeated often enough it will be believed,” McCain said.

The Arizona senator, a veteran of more than two decades in Congress, told his audience that while he is a known quantity the same cannot be said about Obama, who is midway through his first term as a senator from Illinois.

“You need to know who you’re putting in the White House — where the candidate came from and what he or she believes,” McCain said. “And you need to know now, before it is time to choose.”

Later, he added: “There are essential things that we don’t know about Sen. Obama or the record he brings to this campaign.”

Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor said McCain is a “truly angry candidate” who is trying to divert attention from the economy and that it was Obama who warned, in 2007, of the subprime mortgage crisis now blamed for the turmoil in the financial industry. Vietor said McCain has been consistent in calling for less regulation, “proving that he hasn’t learned any lessons from the last banking scandal he was involved in.”

That was a reference to Charles Keating, a savings and loan financier and McCain friend and campaign contributor who ultimately was convicted of securities fraud. Just months into his Senate career in the late 1980s, McCain made what he has called “the worst mistake of my life” by participating in meetings with banking regulators on behalf of Keating.

This is new ground for McCain who vowed to run a “clean” race full of unity and such. That’s fine and dandy, however, it often does not win an election.