The gloves finally come off, candidates go for broke

The day before the next Presidential Town Hall debate between Obama and McCain, it seems as if the “all or nothing” attitude has now emerged on the trail. The McCain campaign has realized it must take the gloves off in the last 30 days if it wishes to make a dent in Obama’s lead. The Obama campaign seems to believe their lead isn’t all that strong and they’re also returning fire on issues with “go for the jugular” mentality.

One wonder is this development will spill into Tuesday night’s Town Hall debate between Obama and McCain, which airs live at 9pm eastern time on every major network and cable news network. I sense a disturbance in the force, perhaps the town hall tomorrow will be more a duel.

Report from Politico, reprinted in it’s entirety:

John McCain and Barack Obama are suddenly going for the jugular, whacking each other for shady relationships in the past and mental stability today.

At a rally in Florida this morning, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin brought up ties between Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and a former member of a ’60s radical anti-war group, and said Obama has “a left-wing agenda.”

“I’m afraid this is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to work with a former domestic terrorist who had targeted his own country,” Palin said in Clearwater, according to CBS News.

The Obama campaign meanwhile, has opened a new website and is posting a 13-minute documentary to resurrect his involvement in the Keating Five savings-and-loan scandal two decades ago.

The McCain campaign’s attacks, and Obama’s escalation, reflect a fluid race that has Republicans terrified and Democrats confident. Election Day is 29 days away but the campaigns know that most voters will make up their minds – and many will actually vote by mail – in the next two weeks.

In the past 24 hours, Obama has hit Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for “erratic” behavior during the market meltdown. And in an overnight e-mail to millions of supporters announcing a “Keating Economics” website and documentary, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe says: “The point of the film and the web site is that John McCain still hasn’t learned his lesson. … Please forward this email to everyone you know.”

McCain, in turn, has hit Obama for his ties to former domestic terrorist William Ayers, and released an ad calling his opponent “dangerous” and “dishonorable” for a comment about Afghanistan.

A new front could open today after Palin told William Kristol of The New York Times that she thinks Obama’s relationship with the fiery black preacher, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, “should be discussed more.”

McCain officials also tell us we’ll hear more in coming days about Obama’s interaction with convicted money launderer Tony Rezko.

Plus, McCain plans more attacks on Obama as a tax-raiser.

It’s a far cry from the bipartisan push for an economic bailout.

Some McCain advisers are extremely skeptical that voters care about Ayers or Wright. These advisers are urging McCain to beef up his economic agenda.

A senior McCain official told us: “Here’s where we’re going with Ayers, Rezko, etc. They are the vehicle that allow us to question Obama’s truthfulness about his past and his plans for the future. We have no intention of letting Barack Obama off the hook for policies that would decimate our ailing economy. We’ll spend every day talking about Barack Obama’s plans to raise taxes on America’s small business owners and his record of raising taxes on those who make 42k a year.

“What’s Barack Obama so afraid of that he’s running negative ads against us over a point we haven’t even made? What is he trying to hide that he’s launched preemptive attack ads against his opponent? What are Barack Obama and his allies in the media trying to cover up? Why not release every email, phone log and minutes for every meeting ever attended with Bill Ayers if he has nothing to hide. Enough with the attack ads from Obama. Time for the truth.”

Obama-Biden communications director Dan Pfeiffer said: “While John McCain may want to turn the page on his erratic response to the current economic crisis, we think voters will find his involvement in a similar crisis to be particularly interesting. His involvement with Keating is a window into McCain’s economic past, present, and future.”

So both campaigns say they’re opening a window – a dirty one, at that.

Report on both sides from CBS News:

Another discussion of the topic from Fox News:

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign is launching ads linking McCain to the Keating scandal, report from the AP:

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Democrat Barack Obama, reacting to Republican charges about his links to a 1960s radical, fired back late Sunday with a Web video about John McCain’s role in the Keating Five scandal from the early 1990s.

The short video, being e-mailed to millions of Obama supporters, summarizes a 13-minute Web “documentary” that the campaign plans to distribute Monday, spokesman Tommy Vietor said. He said McCain’s involvement with convicted thrift owner Charles Keating “is a window into McCain’s economic past, present and future.”

The video release capped a day of complaints and warnings from Obama supporters. They said McCain was inviting a harsh examination of his past by having his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, repeatedly criticize Obama’s association with Bill Ayers, a founder of the Vietnam-era radical group, the Weather Underground.

Just months into his Senate career, in the late 1980s, McCain made what he has called “the worst mistake of my life.” He participated in two meetings with banking regulators on behalf of Keating, a friend, campaign contributor and S&L financier who was later convicted of securities fraud.

The Senate ethics committee investigated five senators’ relationships with Keating. It cited McCain for a lesser role than the others, but faulted his “poor judgment.”

Seems to me that Sarah Palin is launching the character attacks and McCain will be launching the policy attacks, as is standard operating procedure for the President / Vice President candidates in a campaign. Again though, Joe Biden is largely missing from the mix here.

The first debate between Obama and McCain was largely subdued, void of many strong attacks other than policy differences. Tuesday night’s Town Hall, I think, is going to be something different especially considering the fact that the questions will come direct from the audience and voters across the country.