Obama questions McCain’s computer skills

John McCain is mocked as an out-of-touch, out-of-date computer illiterate in a television commercial out Friday from Barack Obama as the Democrat begins his sharpest barrage yet on McCain’s long Washington career.

The new fighting spirit comes as McCain has been gaining in the polls and some Democrats have been expressing concern the Obama campaign has not been aggressive enough. Obama’s campaign says the escalation will involve advertising and pushes made by the candidate, running mate Joe Biden and other surrogates across the country.

"Today is the first day of the rest of the campaign," Obama campaign manager David Plouffe says in a campaign strategy memo. "We will respond with speed and ferocity to John McCain’s attacks and we will take the fight to him, but we will do it on the big issues that matter to the American people."

The newest ad showcasing their hard line includes unflattering footage of McCain at a hearing in the early ’80s, wearing giant glasses and an out-of-style suit, interspersed with shots of a disco ball, a clunky phone, an outdated computer and a Rubix Cube.

"1982, John McCain goes to Washington," an announcer says over chirpy elevator music. "Things have changed in the last 26 years, but McCain hasn’t.

"He admits he still doesn’t know how to use a computer, can’t send an e-mail, still doesn’t understand the economy, and favors two hundred billion in new tax cuts for corporations, but almost nothing for the middle class," it says. It shows video of McCain getting out of a golf cart with former President George H.W. Bush and closes with a photo of him standing with the current President Bush at the White House. "After one president who was out of touch, we just can’t afford more of the same."

Obama spokesman Dan Pfeiffer said the campaign was not making an issue of the 72-year-old McCain’s age, but the time he’s spent in Washington.

"Our economy wouldn’t survive without the Internet, and cyber-security continues to represent one our most serious national security threats," Pfeiffer said. "It’s extraordinary that someone who wants to be our president and our commander in chief doesn’t know how to send an e-mail."

McCain has said he relies on his wife and staff to work the computer for him and that he doesn’t use e-mail.

The ad is being coupled with another positive spot that highlights Obama’s change message, arguing he will provide better health care and tax breaks and bring people together.

Obama has already been showing a newly aggressive tone on the campaign trail in the past week, fighting back against the notion that McCain and running mate Sarah Palin will bring change to Washington. Some Democrats have privately groused that Obama is attacking Palin and arguing that job should fall to Biden.

Plouffe made it clear in his memo that the vice presidential nominee will be at the center of the debate going forward. "Senator Biden will be integral to that effort, both in pushing back on the lies that we’ll continue to see from our opponents, and in keeping the debate focused on delivering for everyday Americans," Plouffe wrote. He argued that the campaign welcomes a debate over who is best equipped to change the country.

Obama’s campaign says the escalation is not in response to the changing dynamics of the race, but part of a planned strategy timed to the final weeks of the campaign after mourning the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. They insist that although McCain may have gotten a bump in national polls since his pick of Palin, Obama still is best positioned in battleground states for an Electoral College win.

Still, Obama has been playing defense as McCain has tried to grab the change mantel, created new enthusiasm with his pick of Palin and accused Obama of maligning her when he said putting lipstick on a pig is still a pig. In fact, Obama had not been talking about Palin when he made the statement, but heated accusations between the two campaigns over the flap dominated national coverage of his trip to the battleground state of Virginia this week.

The campaign was heartened that Virginia media focused instead on Obama’s planned message of reforming schools and drawing contrasts with McCain over education policy. Aides say Obama will continue to highlight differences on issues — like tax policy during a visit to New Hampshire Friday — with the constant theme that Obama will bring change while McCain is no different than Bush.


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