NEW YORK (AFP) — The White House race plumbed new depths Wednesday as Barack Obama accused John McCain of stooping to "lies and phony outrage" in response to the Democrat's mocking talk of "lipstick on a pig."
In a new Internet ad, the McCain campaign accused Obama of a sexist "smear" against the Republican's female running mate, Sarah Palin . But Obama aides flagged a YouTube video showing McCain using the same phrase himself.
"You can put lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig," Obama said at a school in Norfolk, Virginia, reprising his line from Tuesday to attack the Republican pair's claim to be "maverick" reformers at odds with their own party.
"They seize on an innocent remark, try to take it out of context, throw up an outrageous ad, because they know that it's catnip to the news media," the Illinois senator said.
"I don't care what they say about me. But I love this country too much to let them take over another election with lies and phony outrage and 'Swift Boat' politics," he said, referring to an ad offensive against 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry.
The McCain campaign ad over the lipstick row came just after another hugely controversial spot that had accused Obama of favoring explicit sex education for kindergarten-aged children.
Apoplectic Obama aides said the Democrat had supported a Senate measure last year that would have provided funds to teach young children about how to avoid falling prey to pedophiles.
The latest ad shows a clip from Palin's speech at the Republican National Convention last week when she joked that the only difference between an aggressive "hockey mom" like herself and a pitbull dog was "lipstick."
It then pulls Obama's line from Tuesday, delivered at a rally in Lebanon, Virginia, out of context and features a television newscaster decrying "sexism" during the Democratic primary race between Obama and Hillary Clinton.
"Ready to lead? No," a caption concludes next to a photo of Obama. "Ready to smear? Yes."
But Obama aides highlighted the video of McCain, at an event in Iowa last October, describing Clinton's efforts to revive her push for universal healthcare, which failed in the 1990s, as putting "lipstick on a pig."
True to her "pitbull" tag, Palin has been mauling Obama daily on the campaign trail as McCain presents their Republican ticket as zealous reformers who will shake up Washington, salvage the economy and protect the nation.
At a rally in Fairfax, Virginia, McCain and Palin made no mention of the lipstick brawl as the Alaska governor touted anew her decision to tell Congress "thanks, but no thanks" to an infamous "bridge to nowhere" project.
But the Obama campaign wheeled out two state officials -- former governor Tony Knowles and Ketchikan mayor Bob Weinstein -- as part of a new group called "Alaska Mythbusters" to debunk Palin's claims of opposing wasteful spending.
Palin meanwhile scoffed at Obama's promise to fight for Americans, telling the Fairfax crowd "there is only one man in this election who has ever really fought for you," a reference to McCain's decorated service in the Vietnam war.
McCain also took a swipe at Washington's inside-the-Beltway culture.
"How many of you are tired of the same old business, the same old-boy cronyism that exists in Washington, DC?"
"You're sick of it. I'm sick of it. We'll bring about change," he said.
McCain, fueled by a re-energized Republican base since selecting the conservative Palin, retained a five-point lead over Obama -- 48 percent to 43 -- in the latest Gallup tracking poll.
An NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll late Tuesday showed a statistical dead heat with Obama on 47 percent to McCain's 46 percent, down from a three-point edge for the Democrat last month and a six-point lead in July.
And a CNN-Time magazine opinion poll released Wednesday showed the two candidates splitting the lead in four states widely seen as crucial to the election.
The poll showed McCain leading in Missouri 50 to 45 percent and in Virginia 50 to 46, while Obama was ahead in Michigan 49 to 45 percent and in New Hampshire 51 to 45.
But Obama, professing no concern for the polls, said the true issues that will shape the November 4 election were being lost in the fog of campaign rhetoric.
"We have an energy crisis. We have an education system that is not working for too many of our children. We have an economy that is creating hardship all across America. We have two wars going on," he said.
"And this is what they (McCain and Palin) want to talk about," Obama said, referring to the lipstick furor.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »