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Sam Stein Headshot

McCain Plays Rezko Card In New Ad

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John McCain's campaign is out with a new ad Monday morning -- like every morning -- raising some of the ethically compromised characters from Barack Obama's past.

Titled "Chicago Machine," the spot is vintage guilt-by-association, offering scant (but potentially scary) detail for the unfamiliar viewer.

"Barack Obama," the narrator begins. "Born of the corrupt Chicago political machine ... His economic adviser, William Daley. Lobbyist. Mayor's brother. His money man, Tony Rezko. Client. Patron. Convicted Felon. His "political godfather." Emil Jones. Under ethical cloud. His governor, Rod Blagojevich. A legacy of federal and state investigations. With friends like that, Obama is not ready to lead."

There is a lot to digest here and plenty to quibble with (should Obama really be held responsible for Blagojevich's faults?). And it seems unlikely that the press will want to re-litigate the Rezko issue -- they've seen this movie before. What is noteworthy, however, is just how transparently the McCain campaign is trying to move the center of the debate away from the economy and towards character. This spot, which will air "nationally," comes on the heels of another ad tenuously tying Obama to former Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines.

Obama's campaign quickly responded, calling the ad a false attack. "It's no coincidence that on the very day newspapers reported that John McCain's campaign manager was paid $2 million to lobby against tighter regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the McCain campaign would launch this false, gratuitous attack," said spokesman Bill Burton. "Barack Obama was elected to the Illinois Senate as an independent Democrat. He took on the Chicago Democratic organization in a primary to win a seat in the US Senate. And in both Illinois and Washington, he has challenged the Old Guard for landmark ethics reforms."