John McCain: October 2008 Archives

DES MOINES, IA--Reacting to the new McCain spot--featuring Barack Obama praising John McCain for his work on climate change, Obama inserted some new language in his stump speech:

"Just this morning, the McCain campaign put out an ad that showed me praising him and Senator Lieberman for their work on global warming - as if there's something wrong with acknowledging when an opponent has said or done something that makes sense. I think we need more of that in Washington. I don't disagree with Senator McCain on everything, and I respect his occasional displays of independence."

Please see our campaign's response to Barack Obama's latest negative attack ad entitled: "Rear View." In the latest chapter of their "new kind" of political campaign, their ad uses doctored photographs to argue that John McCain is George W. Bush:

"Barack Obama's economic proposals are driven by job killing tax increases and out-of-control spending -- Barack Obama would drive this sputtering economy off a cliff." ---Tucker Bounds, spokesman McCain-Palin

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson aboard Obama campaign plane, Oct. 30, 2008.
(photo by Lynn Sweet)

SARASOTA, FL.--It's a sunny day and the grass has that fresh cut wonderful smell here at the Ed Smith Stadium, with a big crowd to see Barack Obama, with five days left to the campaign.

"We've got to work hard these last five days," Obama is saying. "...It is time to change drivers. We've got to have somebody else at the wheel."

Obama was introduced by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fl.) who rode on the Obama plane from Orlando to Sarasota this morning, Chatting with reporters before take off, Nelson said that Obama, with five days left to the race, is in much better shape than John Kerry was at this point four years ago. Two of Obama's best field organizers--Steve Hildebrand and Paul Tewes--have been camped in the state for weeks.

Said Nelson, "So contrast to 2004, big difference was that John Kerry was spending most of his time in south Florida in the last few days. This time Obama is and Biden are all over the state. To give you another example, Michelle Obama last week in Gainesville, the largest crowd she's had in the country, was in downtown Gainesville, Florida 11,000 people"

to play in key states

RALEIGH, N.C.--A new Obama ad released on Wednesday questions John McCain's experience in handling the economy and his judgment in tapping Sarh Palin to be his running mate. It comes as rifts are being written about between Palin and her McCain campaign handlers and polls suggest that she is turning out to be a liability. McCain's advisors had counted on Palin being a quick enough study so that her inexperience would not become a major issue. While Palin was crucial to McCain rallying his conservative base and drawing crowds, her downsides gave Obama an opening to leverage.

I asked Obama top strategist David Axelrod why they were going after Palin.

"We wanted to look at how Sen. McCain has talked about him self and the economy and his lack of grasp of the economic issues. He said he would appoint a vice president who had expertise on the economy and that's who he chose. And we'll let people make their own judgment," said Axelrod.


Transcript courtesy Federal News Service....

WASHINGTON--I just waited 66 minutes to cast an absentee ballot at the city's election headquarters downtown. Lines I am told have been long since at least Friday. Are you early voting? What's your experience?

Updated 10:25 p.m. eastern time....The McCain team is hitting Barack Obama on his ties to Tony Rezko in video, direct mail timed to hit mail boxes in targeted areas on Monday and in robo calls....Here's the link to a McCain-Rezko direct mail piece.

Click below for text

This John McCain spot released Saturday, hitting Barack Obama as "untested" in turbulent times (the video is of a choppy ocean) and raising questions about his "quick rise to power" is to run in markets in key states.....


WASHINGTON--Michelle Obama filled in for Barack Obama at big rallies in Ohio on Friday while Obama visited his ailing grandmother back in Honolulu, who lives in the same apartment he lived in as a teen.

Michelle on Saturday delivers the regular Democratic radio address.

Obama in Friday spent time with his grandmother and then went for a solitary walk around his old neighborhood, with a Secret Service agent trailing behind him,

WASHINGTON--I just listened to a message left by one of the regular commentators on my Sweet blog. John wanted to know if there was a chance of us all getting together in person to have the lively conversations we have in print.

Well, I'm game for trying if folks really want to meet up.

I'll be in Chicago for the Nov. 4 election night events and around for the next few days. I could arrange for us to meet someplace--maybe order some pizza and hang out in a Sun-Times conference room. Anyone out there interested in sometime between Nov. 5 and Nov. 7?

WASHINGTON--On a Friday conference call, Obama national field director Jon Carson said all early voting trends and voter registration numbers in battleground states are in Barack Obama's favor. Click below for the Carson memo.

On a conference call now with Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, battleground state chief Jennifer O'Malley, and national field director Jon Carson talking about the state of the presidential race on Friday with eleven days to go. Poking at John McCain, Plouffe said, "we have not careened from message to message."

O'Malley said about 1.5 million volunteers working out of homes or one of the more than 700 offices throughout the country. This weekend the campaign expects to have more than one million "conversations" with voters in battleground states--that's a discussion, either phone or in person, not just a literature drop or door knock.

Plouffe, O'Malley and Carson in this metric heavy briefing are painting a very very upbeat scenario for Obama, with early voting trends showing an outpouring of Democrats--new, sporadic and habitual voters.

WASHINGTON--Obama Illinois State Director Ken Bennet, who has been keeping a low profile all this time, emerges in a video to ask Illinois Obama backers to flood the neighboring key battleground states of Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri and Indiana. Since there is not much Obama work to do in Illinois, the Illinois movable feast has been targeting the adjacent Big Ten states. The Obama campaign has told me this export of political talent will not drain big House campaigns in Illinois where Democrats have a chance to make red districts blue.

WASHINGTON--While Barack Obama is planning a Nov. 4 outdoor rally in Grant Park in Chicago, expected to attract thousands of people win or lose and scores of journalists who want to see the event for themselves in person, the McCain election night headquarters will be the Arizona Biltmore Hotel ballroom with only a press pool allowed in for coverage.

The package McCain's team is selling only has a pay-to-play option, without any no-frills pricing plan for reporters on a budget. Obama's campaign at least has a free option for a credential to a press area.

LEESBURG, Va. -- This report about a Barack Obama rally Wednesday in this historic community, founded in 1758 in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, comes in a part of the state a John McCain adviser recently suggested was not part of the "real Virginia."

Now that's material Obama can work with.

UPDATEDat 12:54 eastern time with react from the McCain campaign and Republican National Committee...

WASHINGTON--At a press conference on Wednesday in Richmond, Va., Barack Obama was asked about Joe Biden comments last Sunday at a Seattle fund-raiser where he said Obama. 47, will be "tested" by the world. John McCain has been using the remark on the stump to say that even Biden admits that electing Obama would invite an attack. Obama also talked about his remark to "Joe the Plumber" about spreading the wealth.

"Joe sometimes engages in rhetorical flourishes," Obama said. Obama was joined at the event by military, national security and foreign policy campaign advisors. Since some of then will likely end up in an Obama White House or Obama cabinet, click below for the names and for Obama's prepared remarks.

"Judgment to lead? It's not leadership for Barack Obama to promise to be straight with Americans, only to dismiss serious statements and concern from his own running mate as simple 'rhetorical flourishes.' Joe Biden guaranteed a generated international crisis if Barack Obama is elected, and a smile-for-the-cameras press conference isn't going to mitigate the risk of an Obama presidency." ---Tucker Bounds, spokesman McCain-Palin 2008

"Every American should listen carefully to what Barack Obama is saying, because it reveals an extremely liberal agenda. Obama believes that raising taxes to 'spread the wealth' will create 'opportunity.' If Obama does not prescribe to socialism, then what economic theory does he follow? Obama apparently believes government creates jobs, which is why he wants to raise taxes on hard-working Joes. But raising taxes does not create new opportunities; to the contrary, high taxes make it harder to achieve the American dream." - Alex Conant, RNC Spokesman

Obama today on what he told Joe the Plumber about 'spread the wealth':

Barack Obama: "In that sense, that does involve us spreading around opportunity." OBAMA: "The simple point I was making was that even assuming he's at a point that he wants to buy a business that he hopes will generate more than $250,000, the point I was making was that ten years ago or five years ago or even a year ago when he was making a lot less than that, he was having a tough time. ... We don't mind people getting enormously wealthy because of their skills and their talents and their drive. But we always want to make sure that the playing field is such where everybody who's got a good idea has a chance to succeed. Everybody's got a chance to get financing. Everybody who works hard is able to raise their family. Everybody has an opportunity if they act responsibly to send their kids to college and retire with dignity and respect. And in that sense, that does involve us spreading around opportunity. (Barack Obama Press Conference, 10/22/08)

Obama robo-calls hit Wisconsin

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WASHINGTON--Obama campaign rebuttal robo-call was launched Tuesday afternoon in Wisconson, featuring a woman identified by the campaign as Jeri Watermolen, a small business owner from Green Bay, a former John McCain supporter who now is for Barack Obama because "sleazy phone calls and mail" from McCain slamming Obama.

A robo-call is the nickname for an automated, or robotic recorded message computer dialed to telephones. Click below for the script. Click here to listen.

WASHINGTON--John McCain is going after Barack Obama again on Wednesday --painting him as a Socialist because he told "Joe the Plumber" he wanted to spread the wealth. Brace yourself, but there are "socialistic" elements in our civic life already.

What Obama is doing is raising questions about tax equity. That happens all the time. To suggest that makes one a Socialist--an inflammatory word in U.S. politics--is nutty.

As retired Gen. Colin Powell, the former Secretary of State said Sunday, "Taxes are always a redistribution of money."

The U.S. already has a progressive federal income tax structure. Those with higher incomes already pay more. The nation has Medicare--nationalized, subsidized health insurance for seniors as well as some others. Congress just approved a bail-out that partly nationalized banks--a deal Republicans and Democrats supported.

Hat tip to Jeanne Cummings of Politico, with a story today driving some of the political conversation: The Republican National Committee paid some $150,000 for clothes from high end stores for Sarah Palin and her family, according to newly filed campaign disclosures.

Statement by McCain-Palin spokesperson Tracey Schmitt on Politico report about Gov. Palin's clothing:

"With all of important issues facing the country right now, it's remarkable that we're spending time talking about pantsuits and blouses. It was always the intent that the clothing go to a charitable purpose after the campaign."

WASHINGTON--John McCain is going after Joe Biden on Tuesday for remarks Biden made Sunday at a Seattle fund-raiser about how Barack Obama, 47, will be tested by "the world" to see if he is tough enough. This off message message from Biden came during a long discussion about Obama. Click for the pool report with the entire transcript.

WASHINGTON--Here's the latest from the Obama campaign on where he will tape his 30-minute address to the nation to be telecast next week: It will not be at Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Studios, said Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt on Tuesday.

Even if Obama were to use Harpo, the studio would have to charge, since federal candidates cannot take donations--even in-kind contributions from corporations.

Update....for the details of the John McCain election night plans and coverage costs, click here

WASHINGTON---The Obama campaign is putting a hefty price tag on the best camera and reporting positions for news organizations covering Barack Obama's outdoor election night activities in downtown Chicago. If a reporter wants access to the file center--which will be the best place to find Obama officials and spokesmen--be prepared to write a check for $935. The cheapest place a reporter could stand on a riser with a view is $880.

That $935 covers one reporter in a heated file tent, power, cable tv, internet and food. I am told by an Obama spokesman who did not want his name used that this just covers costs and they are not turning a profit on this. The planners could have built in more al a carte options for Grant Park coverage.

This is an outrageous pay to play plan that caters to national elite outlets with deep pockets.

I am not asking for a free ride--news outlets pay for plane seats, other transportation organized by the campaign, hotel rooms, plus associated costs for filing centers.

But this Election Night list is pricey and does not take into account some reporters won't need power, cable, internet or food but will crave the access more than the food. As I was talking to this unnamed spokesman about this enormously expensive set-up, he did say--that a news outlet could rotate people in and out of the tent on that one credential. Great.

A general media area will be created where a reporter could watch for free, but the set-up is separate, unequal and clearly second class when it comes to getting top access to campaign people.

The campaign could not have made going to the free space more unappealing. If will be "outdoors, unassigned and may have obstructed views. General Media Area credentials do not include access to riser positions, satellite truck parking or the press filing center."

UPDATE To be clear: no one is asking for anything to be free for the press. It's just that the package of services packaged by the campaign is expensive and includes things not every outlet needs.
Obama's top donors--not the masses who donated the $5, $10 and $25 the campaign brag about--will have VIP access throughout election night and received an early heads up a week ago to plan to spend Election Night in Chicago.

Here's a story about this posted by Greg Hinz at Crain's Chicago Business.

Click below for the price list

WASHINGTON---As the odds are improving that Barack Obama will win the White House two weeks from today, there is speculation over what role pal Oprah Winfrey will play in an Obama administration.

A blog in the Financial Times
guessed--with nothing but vapor for back up-- that Winfrey would be tapped to be ambassador to England.

I disagree that's what Winfrey would do for a President Obama. Nevertheless, I'll indulge.

WASHINGTON--Barack Obama is heading off the campaign trail to Hawaii to visit his ailing 85-year-old grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, spokesman Robert Gibbs said Monday night.

WASHINGTON -- Retired Gen. Colin Powell's endorsement Sunday of Barack Obama, while coming late in the game, massively undercuts Obama's critics and undermines John McCain's selling points about being the maverick and military man the nation needs at this point in history.

On the Monday "Today Show" on NBC....

UPDATED with Obama campaign react, Colin Powell interview after "Meet the Press" and transcript

WASHINGTON--Barack Obama picked up a key endorsement Sunday from former Bush administration Secretary of State, retired Gen. Colin Powell, who made the announcement on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Powell, the son of immigrant parents from Jamaica who rose to the top ranks in military and government, told Tom Brokaw he will cast his vote for Obama but won't go out on the stump with him. Powell was critical of the John McCain campaign: its embrace of negative tactics, emphasis on Bill Ayers and sharp right turn.

He praised Obama's "ability to inspire," pick for vice president-- Joe Biden-- and for running an "inclusive" campaign crossing racial, ethnic and generational lines. Powell said Obama was a "transformational" figure and was clearly troubled by McCain tapping Sarah Palin because he praised Biden as ready to lead from day one.

Obama called Powell and thanked him for his endorsement and said how honored he was to have it, spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement.

Gibbs said Obama told Powell he looked forward to taking advantage of his advice in the next two weeks and hopefully over the next four years in their ten minute talk.

Powell served under four presidents: Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and President Bush. This is one of Obama's most major endorsements--and his biggest Republican name. Powell's nod comes at a time where McCain and Sarah Palin have been portraying Obama as risky because of his associations, stressing his relationship with Bill Ayers, a former terrorist now a University of Illinois-Chicago education professor.

Powell's endorsement undercuts those arguments and also shores up Obama in states with a large military population.

Brokaw asked if race played a role in Powell's decision. Powell is one of the leading African American figures in the nation. "If I only had that in mind, I could have done this six, eight, ten months ago," Powell said.

Taking questions from reporters outside of the NBC Washington Bureau after taping the show, I asked Powell about the role McCain's negative campaign tone against Obama played in his decision.

"It troubled me," he said.

"We have two wars. We have economic problems. We have health problems. We have education problems. We have infrastructure problems. We have problems around the world with out allies.

WASHINGTON--Barack Obama's campaign raised a stunning $150 million in September, besting its previous best month, $66 million in August. Campaign manager David Plouffe sent out the news in an e-mail early Sunday morning that included an appeal for more cash and noted the massive crowds Obama attracted on Saturday, some 100,000 in St. Louis and 75,000 in Kansas City, all in the critical battleground state of Missouri.

WASHINGTON -- Saul Alinsky surfaced as a factor in the presidential contest last year, in stories about how the legendary Chicago community organizer -- who worked in the Back of the Yards and Woodlawn -- directly influenced Hillary Rodham Clinton and indirectly touched Barack Obama, then Democratic primary rivals.

Now Alinsky is back in the closing days of the Obama-McCain contest, being demonized by McCain surrogates as if he were still alive.

The McCain-Palin ticket is invoking Alinsky, Bill Ayers, the former terrorist now Chicago professor, and ACORN, the community group created in the Alinsky tradition (under investigation for botched voter registration drives) as they argue Obama has "socialist" views.

UPDATE...Complete script at the bottom of the post.

WASHINGTON--Sarah Palin and look alike Tina Fey, dressed like twins, crossed paths for a moment in a skit on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" but did not engage in any schtick.

In a second appearance--much more funny-- Palin, a one-time sportscaster, sat in with "Weekend Update" anchors Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers as Poehler did a wicked rap complete with Eskimo back up dancers, a Todd Palin impersonator and a dancing moose.

Poehler did what supposed to be Palin's part because the Alaska governor was worried about the satire crossing a line.

"I'm Jeremiah Wright cuz tonight I'm the preacher. I got a bookish look and you're all hot for the teacher......."When I say Obama, you say Ayers," Poehler as Palin rapped.

The first sketch opened with Fey, portraying Palin, holding her "first official press conference." As Fey is at the podium--saying she is excited about being in front of the "liberal elite media as well as the liberal regular media" --and then proclaiming she was about to do "some fancy pageant walkin,'" --the scene cut to "SNL" boss Lorne Michaels with Palin.

Palin and Michaels are watching Fey portray Palin on a television at NBC's Rockefeller Center studios.

"I really wish that had been you," Michaels said.

"Loren, you know, I didn't think it was a realistic depiction of the way my press conferences would have gone," said Palin, who has yet to hold a formal press conference since John McCain tapped her to be his running mate. Both McCain and Palin have been beating up the mainstream media.

Yes, but it obviously is a heightened reality," Michaels said.

"Why couldn't we have done the "30 Rock" sketch that I wrote," Palin said, referring to the hit show Fey stars in with Alec Baldwin.

"Honestly, not enough people know that show," Michaels said.

With that set up, a little later, Baldwin shows up and mistakes Palin for Fey, who doesn't let on.

Baldwin goes on and on about how Michaels can't let Fey go on with Palin, "that woman. She goes against everything we stand for. I mean Good Lord, Loren, they call her whats that name...

"That would be Caribou Barbie," Palin says. "Thank you want her, 'our Tina,' to go out there and stand there with that horrible woman. What do you have to say for yourself.?"

"Alec, this is Gov. Palin.

"Hi there.

"Forgive me, but I must say this. You are way hotter in person."

WASHINGTON--In a matter of minutes, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) in an interview with Chris Matthews on MSNBC's "Hardball" has gone where no other Republican has --mentioning Barack Obama and Tony Rezko, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Rev. Michael Pfleger, Bill Ayers and Saul Alinsky. Bachmann called for the media to probe members of Congress to determine who held "anti-American" views.

WASHINGTON--The McCain campaign unleashed a furious attack on the New York Times for digging into the background of Cindy McCain--as her attorney asserted the paper is not looking deeply at Barack and Michelle Obama.

Her attorney wrote a stinging letter to the managing editor of the New York Times about how the piece was prepared--claiming a reporter contacted a teen on her Face Book page to get some leads.

In the letter released by the McCain campaign, attorney John Dowd notes that Cindy McCain's battles with drugs and the management of her charitable life have been long reported and then he wonders why the paper has not plowed more new ground with Barack and Michelle Obama.

"It is worth noting that you have not employed your investigative assets looking into Michelle Obama. You have not tried to find Barack Obama's drug dealer that he wrote about in his book, Dreams of My Father," Dowd wrote.

"Nor have you interviewed his poor relatives in Kenya and determined why Barack Obama has not rescued them. Thus, there is a terrific lack of balance here.

"I suggest to you that none of these subjects on either side are worthy of the energy and resources of The New York Times. They are cruel hit pieces designed to injure people that only the worst rag would investigate and publish. I know you and your colleagues are always preaching about raising the level of civil discourse in our political campaigns. I think taking some your own medicine is in order here."

Click below for the entire letter

WASHINGTON--The Obama campaign has been a game changer....for the Chicago Tribune. The editorial board endorsed Obama, backing a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time since the paper started printing in 1847. I am absolutely not surprised. The editorial board, led by Bruce Dold, who wrote the endorsement, has been Obama friendly for years and the transition to new owner Sam Zell did not change the dynamic.

Tribune Editorial: Barack Obama for president

However this election turns out, it will dramatically advance America's slow progress toward equality and inclusion. It took Abraham Lincoln's extraordinary courage in the Civil War to get us here. It took an epic battle to secure women the right to vote. It took the perseverance of the civil rights movement. Now we have an election in which we will choose the first African-American president . . . or the first female vice president.

In recent weeks it has been easy to lose sight of this history in the making. Americans are focused on the greatest threat to the world economic system in 80 years. They feel a personal vulnerability the likes of which they haven't experienced since Sept. 11, 2001. It's a different kind of vulnerability. Unlike Sept. 11, the economic threat hasn't forged a common bond in this nation. It has fed anger, fear and mistrust.

On Nov. 4 we're going to elect a president to lead us through a perilous time and restore in us a common sense of national purpose.

The strongest candidate to do that is Sen. Barack Obama. The Tribune is proud to endorse him today for president of the United States.

WASHINGTON--Most of you, I bet, may be curious about the increased number of references lately from McCain campaign and surrogates about one Saul Alinsky as they try to make Barack Obama a risky presidential pick because of his associations.

I just heard Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) tell Andrea Mitchell on her MSNBC show that "Obama started out with Saul Alinsky." Not true, if Bond was being literal. Alinsky, born in Chicago on Jan. 30, 1909 died on June 12, 1972 in Carmel, Calif. Obama was born in 1961.

McCain on Letterman

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Barack Obama--after appearing with John McCain at the Alfred Smith dinner--hit the Hammerstein Ballroom on 34th Street in Manhattan for a mega-bucks fund-raiser concert with Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel who were joined by John Legend and India Arie. John Sykes, Harvey Weinstein and Anna Wintour were the producers.

Michelle and "Born to Run" Barack listened from back stage and when the band played "Signed Sealed Delivered," at the end, the Obama's did a little dance and hip bumping.

Obama has been urging his backers not to get cocky as his poll lead grows. "Don't underestimate the capacity of Democrats to snatch defeat from
the jaws of victory," Obama said. "Don't underestimate our ability
to screw it up."

WASHINGTON--The Thursday pre-election special "Saturday Night Live" scooped up all the latest campaign business in a series of skits and parodies: the third presidential debate, Jesse Jackson on the Bradley effect and that crazy lady at the John McCain rally who wondered if Barack Obama was an Arab. Watch the clips, read the scripts, all right here.

The Obama team paid media is focusing a lot on health care in the closing days of the campaign.

At the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner on Thursday night, John McCain and Barack Obama trade comic darts. UPDATED This post contains transcripts of McCain and Obama remarks

Barack Obama, widening his lead over John McCain, told donors at a New York $30,800 per-person fund-raising breakfast on Thursday not to get too cocky or giddy with the prospect of his winning the White House. He delivered the caution because he's been there before--Obama and his crew back in January thought he was going to win New Hampshire--all the polls pointed that way--except that he lost. He also for one of the first times also talked about staffing up the administration, suggesting among his elite donors some of them may want to come to Washington.

"For those of who you are feeling giddy and a little cocky and think, you know, this is all set, I just have one word, I guess it's two words for you: New Hampshire," Obama said.

WILMINGTON, DEL.--The Rev. Jesse Jackson said his comments about Israel in a recent New York Post column were distorted and issued a statement. Here's the link to an earlier blog featuring the reaction of his son. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) to the column.

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y -- John McCain's job at the final presidential debate was to throw Barack Obama off stride because he has a lot of catching up to do in the 19 days left in the campaign, with Obama surging ahead.

But Obama, Mr. Cool -- sometimes too cool, especially when he ignored at first McCain's request to repudiate charges that he and Sarah Palin were promoting racism and violence -- did nothing that handed McCain the game-changing debate he needed

at the third presidential debate....

debate101408.jpg We had such great turnout for our past three live blogs during the presidential and vice-presidential debate that we're doing it again for Wednesday's presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain

Everyone is welcome to participate! You don't need to do anything now, just come back to Lynn Sweet's blog before the debate gets going (9 p.m. Eastern). We'll start the chat 30 minutes before the debate, and keep it going until 30 minutes after it's over. You can join the discussion at any point during that time frame -- and you can sign up for a reminder at left.

NEW YORK--The 31-page "Memorandum of Understanding" governing the three presidential and single vice presidential debates--the final one Wednesday night at Hofstra University-- was signed off by the Obama and McCain campaigns--but not the journalists who are the moderators.

The deal--designed to limit interactions and surprises--seemed to unravel at the second presidential debate last week at Belmont University in Nashville, moderated by NBC's Tom Brokaw. Sarah Palin mocked the format when she said at the vice presidential debate she did not intended to answer questions posed by moderator Gwen Ifill of PBS. And Jim Lehrer, also of PBS, could not get John McCain and Barack Obama to interact with each other.

The Hofstra debate will be moderated by Bob Schieffer of CBS, with the focus on domestic and economic policy. There will be nine nine minute segments with two minute answers with an open discussion period of five minutes.

NEW YORK--Barack Obama will wind up a nearly two-year quest for the White House in Chicago, with an election night celebration--probably outdoors, maybe Grant Park--in the city where he lives and where his national campaign is headquartered.

NEW YORK--This aggravation Barack Obama did not need--an incendiary quote from the Rev. Jesse Jackson about Israel as he is struggling to lock in support from Jewish voters, especially in the key battleground state of Florida, where his campaign just sent out a special mailing to Jewish voters pegged to Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur.

The Tuesday New York Post reported "Jackson believes that, although "Zionists who have controlled American policy for decades" remain strong, they'll lose a great deal of their clout when Barack Obama enters the White House."

His son, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) on Wednesday morning refuted the comments his father made while in France at the World Economic Forum.

"I know that under a Barack Obama presidency, the United States of America's relationship with Israel will remain rock-solid, strong and unshakable. Barack Obama is committed to maintaining and strengthening the special bond between our two countries, born of our shared values as well as our common interests."

This is the third time during the long Obama campaign that Rep. Jackson felt compelled to address statement made by his father.

WASHINGTON--Barack Obama continues to be attacked by John McCain and other Republicans for his relationship with Bill Ayers, the former terrorist turned respected Chicago educator. Obama served on civic boards with Ayers and Ayers held a coffee for Obama when Obama first ran for a state senate seat in 1995. McCain said he may bring up Ayers at the third and final presidential debate Wednesday night.

Obama said McCain--running ads featuring Ayers with Sarah Palin making him an issue on the stump--never said anything to his face. Ayers did not came up in the first two presidential debates. If McCain continues to insist that Obama launched his political career from Ayers' Hyde Park living room, he is misleading the public by overplaying the size and significance of Ayers' early support.

If you could ask John McCain or Barack Obama at the third and final presidential debate Wednesday night at Hostra University on Long Island......What would you ask?

To: the Sweet blog community

From: Lynn

Hi all...please note new features on the blog.....find widgets on the right side... and look at the top of the blog to see where you can sign up for e-mail alerts...that plus as many blog posts as I can manage....and the always useful "Sweet Links."

Dow closes 964 up

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The Obama campaign produced this spot---playing in Wisconsin, not sure where else--in reply to McCain ad attacking Barack Obama for his association with Bill Ayers, Tony Rezo and Bill Daley. To rebut McCain's pitch that Obama's political career started in Ayers Hyde Park living room, the Obama presidential team shows a picture of the Ramada Inn on Lake Shore Drive, saying that is the real ground zero.

WASHINGTON--Stumping in the key battleground state of Virginia, John McCain reacts to Barack Obama's lead in every significant poll. "The national medai has written us off," McCain said. Obama is "measuring the drapes."

from the Oct. 12, 2008 Chicago Sun-Times

Sun-Times Staff Reporters

John McCain is hammering Barack Obama about his ties to Chicago educator Bill Ayers, co-founder of the Weather Underground, a group that used violence in the 1960s and 1970s to try to end the Vietnam War.

WASHINGTON--Barack Obama, John McCain speeches on the economy on Monday. McCain from the battleground state of Virginia, where he will have an urgent call to change direction now. Obama from the key state of Ohio, where he unveils his "economic rescue plan for the middle class. Obama economic advisor Jason Furman briefs via conference call at noon eastern.

WASHINGTON--Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bill Clinton knocked themselves out for the Obama Biden ticket Sunday, campaigning with Joe and Jill Biden in Scranton, Pa. And the Clinton political operation--wants to make sure the record shows that Bill and Hill are doing heavy lifting. That's a reason the Clinton team sent out a transcript of Bill and Hill remarks from the Sunday rally (click below for transcript.). Hillary Clinton has already raised, she said, some $10 million for the Obama Biden ticket--that's counting checks written associated with events she has headlined.

excerpt from Bill Clinton: But I just want to tell you something - I have been working in national presidential campaigns in some form or fashion since 1968. She has done 50 events for Senator Obama. She has not only done more to support him than any runner-up in the Democratic primary process in my lifetime, she has done more than all the other runner-ups combined. That says a lot about why she ran for President and what she believes in.

This McCain spot linking Barack Obama to Bill Ayers goes too far, as the McCain campaign tries to raise questions about Obama's judgment and character. For an analysis to to

Pool report by Abdon Pallasch
Chicago Sun-Times

Pool report: Michelle Obama and the Bidens at Women for Obama, DNC Women's Leadership Forum
National Womens Leadership Issues Conf., Sheraton Hotel Chicago
About 1,000 women from around the countrying paid $2,500 to $28,500 to attend.

Oprah Winfrey spoke first - we were not admitted to that.

CHICAGO--John McCain's campaign ads use "false and misleading statements" about the relationship between Barack Obama and Bill Ayers, according to an analysis by conclusion

Voters may differ in how they see Ayers, or how they see Obama's interactions with him. We're making no judgment calls on those matters. What we object to are the McCain-Palin campaign's attempts to sway voters - in ads and on the stump - with false and misleading statements about the relationship, which was never very close. Obama never "lied" about this, just as he never bragged about it. The foundation they both worked with was hardly "radical." And Ayers is more than a former "terrorist," he's also a well-known figure in the field of education.

CHICAGO--As the McCain campaign presses Barack Obama on Bill Ayers, the former terrorist now University of Chicago professor, Richard Stern, the novelist at the University of Chicago posts an essay at The New Republic about dinners at the Hyde Park home of Ayers and wife Bernardine Dohrn.

Transcript courtesy of Federal News Service

Making a reference to the "Chicago Way," the Republican National Committee links together Tony Rezko, Bill Ayers and William Daley in a new overheated negative spot released Friday to run in Wisconsin and Indiana, battlegrounds adjacent to Illinois.

The McCain team continues to focus on Barack Obama's associations as the world economy is sinking and the Dow is plunging again.

The spot takes a parochial approach--pumping up presumed anti-Chicago sentiment in the Hoosier and Badger states.


Voice over: The Chicago Way. Shady politics. That's Barack Obama's training.

My comment: The McCain camp is trying to make Obama into yet another hack Chicago alderman. Unless you're talking about deep dish pizza, saying something is "The Chicago Way" is not a compliment. Actually Obama's political roots in Chicago are related to the Democratic faction aligned with the late Mayor Harold Washington--not the Daley family. It was later in Obama's political life that he formed important alliances with the Daley faction; his top strategist, David Axelrod, is Mayor Daley's top advisor and his counselor-at-large in the presidential campaign is Valerie Jarrett, who comes out of the Daley City Hall--as does Michelle Obama, who worked for Jarrett.

Voice over: His teachers? Tony Rezko: Convicted of corruption, money laundering, aiding and abetting bribery. Rezko got Obama in on a shady land deal.

My comment: The timeline is wrong. Obama's "boneheaded" move to involve Rezko in the purchase of his home--Rezko's wife buying the adjoining lot--came years before Rezko's conviction. Rezko was not even indicted at the time Obama bought the house--though Rezko was under investigation.

Voice over: William Daley: Heir to the Chicago machine. A top Obama advisor.

My comment: It's dirty to drag William Daley into this spot with two other men accused of criminal behavior. This is the second time the McCain team has used William Daley, Mayor Daley's brother, who is the actual "heir" to the "Chicago machine," or what is left of it. It is true that Daley is a top advisor.

And William Ayers: Leader of a terrorist group that bombed the U.S. Capitol. Obama's first campaign was launched at a gathering at Mr. Ayers's home.

My comment: This line suggest that Ayers was critical to Obama's political career. He was not. Getting the early backing of then state Sen. Alice Palmer was more important, because that got him entree with local powerbrokers. Obama and Palmer would go on to have a falling out that lasts until this day.

Palmer decided to run for re-election; Obama would not drop out; Obama challenged the signatures on her nominating petitions and knocked Palmer--and all his opponents off the ballot, letting him claim a state senate seat without a fight.

Now that's the Chicago Way.

CHICAGO--Barack Obama points to ethics legislation he helped pass in Springfield as one of his central achievements while in the Illinois State Senate. He uses the measure to bolster his credentials as a reformer. Obama also uses the bill to suggest he is willing to buck the system and take political risks and hits. But at the time the bill passed in Springfield, Obama never suffered any significant political backlash that anyone noticed.

John McCain at the second presidential debate did not dispute that Obama had some achievements--it's just that they did not come at any political cost and did not demonstrate the political courage that he has, McCain said, noting party battles left "scars on my back."

Former Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.), who did crusade against local corruption--and whose political career suffered for taking on the Illinois political establishment--on Wednesday in a conference call organized by the McCain campaign picked up on that theme.

Work on that Springfield ethics bill, said Fitzgerald--who serve in the state senate with Obama--"really did not take any courage. " He pointed to how little opposition there was to the bill to make his point. The record shows the ethics bill Obama talks about passed on lopsided roll calls: in the state Senate 52-4 and the Illinois House 102-3.

My colleague David McKinney, the Chicago Springfield Bureau Chief, prepared a briefing on the bill. He also pulled the speech Obama made on the floor of the Illinois Senate and the language may ring a bell--Obama talked about a public "increasingly cynical about Springfield and the General Assembly." Obama often has talked about cynicism in Washington during his presidential campaign.

Here's the McKinney brief......

By David McKinney
Chicago Sun-Times Springfield Bureau Chief

SPRINGFIELD, ILL--The ethics legislation Obama has said was the first significant bill bearing his name in Springfield was hailed by its chief Senate sponsor, Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale), as the "most important piece of campaign finance reform legislation in 25 years." Before it passed, Dillard thanked Obama by name, as well as the primary House sponsors, Rep. Gary Hannig (D-Litchfield) and former Rep. Jack Kubik (R-Riverside), and confirmed all four caucuses had input into the bill.

Initiated by the late U.S. Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.) and backed by government watchdog groups at the time, the legislation passed the Senate 52-4 and the House 102-3. It was signed by former Gov. Jim Edgar and took effect in January 1999.

The legislation's biggest components were the prohibition against the personal use of campaign funds, a ban on accepting lavish gifts from lobbyists or others with state business, and the requirement that campaign finance reports be posted on the Internet for the first time. It also put a stop to campaign fundraising in state offices and the Capitol and prohibited fundraising in Springfield when the Legislature is in session.

Obama stood up and spoke briefly on the bill, stressing its importance but also predicting that it would not be "overly onerous" on lawmakers.

CHICAGO--Former Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.) left his mark on civic life in Illinois by sticking his neck out to try to expose the serial corruption among local government officials that has become a fact of life.

Fitzgerald was so unpopular that then state senator Barack Obama considered running for the U.S. even before Fitzgerald decided not to try for a second term.

During Fitzgerald's time in the U.S. Senate, he served with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) at a time when McCain was getting beat up by his GOP colleagues for his work on campaign finance reform.

McCain has been making the argument that when it come to government reform he has "the scars on his back" to show that he picked tough fights while Obama cherry picked easier to pass reform measures that just were not that controversial but that left him with bragging rights.

On a conference call on Wednesday morning, Fitzgerald, now a banker in McLean, Va., reinforced this message with his assertion that Obama lacked political "courage" to take on local corruption.

NASHVILLE--Good morning from Music City. Before you haggle over whether John McCain dissed Barack Obama by calling him "that one," at their second presidential debate, read a FactCheck. org analysis.

Lots of fault to go around.

NASHVILLE -- Barack Obama and John McCain left the evil ghosts of their pasts, Bill Ayers and Charlie Keating, at home during their second presidential debate Tuesday night.

Though Ayers and Keating figured in much of the sniping in the past days, their names were never said during the 90-minute matchup at Belmont University in Nashville. The debate was billed as a town hall, but it turned out to be a hybrid with moderator Tom Brokaw of NBC News getting in a good share of the questions, supplementing queries from "real people." Brokaw had trouble wrangling his unruly debaters, who ignored time limits and other debate rules.

NASHVILLE--Since the McCain campaign has resurfaced the matter of Barack Obama's relationship with Bill Ayers--the former terrorist now Chicago education professor---there are some matters I am curious about. I say this as one who has explained time and again in print and on television Ayers, by the time Obama met him in the 1990s, was a respected academic who was welcome into Chicago's civic life.

On Monday, Obama chief strategist David Axelrod said Obama was not aware of Ayers' terrorist background when he attended a political coffee at Ayers Hyde Park home at the beginning of his state senate race sometime in the fall of 1995. Ayers and Obama first crossed paths in 1995 while involved in the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a foundation dealing with urban education issues.

So the question is--I'm just curious and I wonder about this as one who has defended Obama's association with Ayers, the education expert (not Ayers, the terrorist)---when did Obama finally learn about the Weather Underground background of Ayers and his wife Bernardine Dohrn?

We had such great turnout for our past two live blogs during the presidential and vice-presidential debate that we're doing it again for tonight's presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain

Everyone is welcome to participate! You don't need to do anything now, just come back to Lynn Sweet's blog before the debate gets going (9 p.m. Eastern). We'll start the chat 30 minutes before the debate, and keep it going until 30 minutes after it's over. You can join the discussion at any point during that time frame -- and you can sign up for a reminder at left.

NASHVILLE--Obama spokesman Bill Burton does some serious lowering of expectations for the second John McCain Barack Obama presidential debate Tuesday night at Belmont University in Nashville. Click below for Burton memo.

WASHINGTON -- With more polls trending in Barack Obama's direction and with his lead over John McCain growing, the controversial Chicago 3 -- Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright and Tony Rezko -- won't likely prevent the Illinois senator from being elected president in a few weeks.

In an effort to change this trajectory, Sarah Palin on Monday invoked Ayers' name for the third day in a row, talking about Obama's connections with the former Vietnam War-era terrorist now a respected education professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

"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 to cheers at a Clearwater, Fla., rally.

Hillary Clinton's Democratic primary campaign at one time hoped focus on Ayers -- a Hyde Park resident who served on civic boards with Obama before he was a U.S. senator -- would swing voters her way.

Why does the McCain figure things might be different in a general election contest?

Transcript courtesy Federal News Service

WASHINGTON--With the Obama campaign raising John McCain's role in the Keating 5 scandal--a 20 something year old subject unvisited until McCain started up about Obama and Bill Ayers, the McCain campaign is having a conference call now featuring McCain attorney John Dowd.

Bottom line, said Dowd, "John had not violated any rules of the Senate or laws of the United States."

The conference call came as an Obama web "documentary" called "Keating economics, John McCain and the making of a financial crisis" started.

WASHINGTON--At a Monday rally in the key battleground state of Florida, Sarah Palin made her first comment about how Tina Fey portrayed her for the third time on "Saturnday Night Live," in a spoof about the vice presidential debate.

"I was just trying to keep Tina Fey in business."

Palin said she was providing "job security for SNL characters."

Developing....Palin is repeating her attacks on Obama's connection to Bill Ayers again.....

WASHINGTON -- Barack Obama and John McCain meet for a second debate Tuesday night with a "town hall" format, but a deal made between the camps limits the interaction the candidates will have with the undecided voters in the pool of questioners.

Almost every important detail about the debates -- three presidential and one vice presidential -- is governed by a 31-page "memorandum of understanding." It was collegially negotiated between the Obama and McCain camps and covers everything from how the candidates are addressed to the permissible camera shots.

WASHINGTON--The McCain Palin campaign should know by now that once attacked, the Obama campaign swings back. With the McCain camp bringing up Barack Obama's connection with former terrorist now urban educator Bill Ayers--Obama is calling McCain "erratic" (code for age?) and recalling McCain's role in the Keating 5 savings and loan scandal--and linking it to the current economic crisis.

The Obama camp has produced a web McCain-Keating 5 documentary (plays at noon eastern today) and a web ad. McCain's involvement with Charles Keating was a low point of his political career.

updated 4:24 Chicago time with Obama campaign react...

WASHINGTON--The Republican National Committee is hosting a conference call right now outlining the Federal Election Commission complaint it will file Monday accusing the Obama campaign of taking contributions from foreign nationals who are banned by U.S. law from giving to U.S. federal candidates.

"A wide scale problem for the Obama campaign," said RNC Chief Counsel Sean Cairncross.

The Obama team said McCain has his own problem with foreign donors.

WASHINGTON--Barack Obama's association with former terrorist, now urban educator Bill Ayers is looming in the closing days of the presidential race, as Obama's past once again becomes part of his present.

Sarah Palin said Obama ``is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who targeted their own country," as the McCain campaign opens the associational front with less than a month to go in the campaign. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign tried to take down Obama with Ayers and it did not work, but that was with mainly a Democratic primary audience.

On Saturday, the New York Times had a front page story on Obama and Ayers, which makes the point that the University of Illinois Chicago hired him despite his radical past--maybe fault the institution for that, someone suggested in the article. Ayers joined the UIC faculty years after the Weather Underground member surfaced from being on the lam from the law and after he got his doctorate from Columbia.

I wrote a column last Apil--during the Democratic primary clash-- explaining why Obama knowing Ayers never became an issue for him in Chicago.
You may not agree, but that's the way it's been in the city.

Sun-Times reporters Chris Fusco and Abdon Pallasch wrote this piece on Ayers last April.

WASHINGTON--While Sarah Palin and friends are bashing the mainstream media, NBC's "Saturday Night Live" wickedly funny spoofs are having as much political impact in the presidential campaign as the Sunday public affairs shows.

So with the Nov. 4 election looming, NBC announced it is adding on a three week prime time whistle stop, starting at 9:30 eastern this Thursday for a 30 minute live show. That means we won't have to wait until next Saturday to find out how the second presidential--this Tuesday--really went down. There will be a Thursday edition of the "Weekend Update."

updated 2:25 a.m. Chicago time

WASHINGTON--Tina Fey nailed Sarah Palin for a third time in a parody of the vice presidential debate where Queen Latifah played moderator Gwen Ifill. A cast member, Jason Sudeikis spoofed Joe Biden.

Ifill was given quit a ribbing in the skit--shown as hawking her upcoming book, which she did not do at the debate--promising not to ask follow up questions in order to "not to appear biased for Barack Obama in light of my new book, "Breakthrough, Politics of Race in the Age of Obama."

From Latifah as Ifill: "Due to the historically low expectations for Gov. Palin, were she simply to do an adequate job tonight, at no point cry, faint, run out of the building or vomit, you should consider the debate a tie."

The Sarah Palin Joe Biden vice presidential debates drew a massive 69.9 million viewers, according to Nielsen, beating the Barack Obama John McCain debate by 17.5 million.

ST. LOUIS--After the debate I joined CBS anchor Katie Couric for a segment of her webcast along with Bob Schieffer.

Transcript courtesy Federal News Service

ST. LOUIS--Mojo making news for the Obama campaign hours before the Sarah Palin-Joe Biden debate: John McCain is pulling out of battleground Michigan.

The spin from a McCainite: Setting up camp in Michigan was only an "offensive move" made to make Barack Obama play defense.

Michigan resources will be diverted to Maine. McCain camp says electoral college map puts them at a projected 260 of the 270 electoral votes needed to clinch. "Our map is strong," a McCain advisor said.

Biggest states in play for McCain: Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Missouri.

Obama backer Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) just told me swing state Missouri will "be close" and Obama has the organization here to win.

ST. LOUIS--Obama campaign manager David Plouffe flew here on the Joe Biden plane and told this to reporters as he previewed the Biden-Sarah Palin debate tonight:

"Gov. Palin is one of the best debaters in American politics."

Technical term for this is raising expectations. But what is true is that I was told by a top McCain advisor that the McCain operation picked Palin after favorably viewing tapes of debates she was in when she ran for Alaska governor.

ST. LOUIS-- Sarah Palin and Joe Biden face off in the sole vice presidential debate in a few hours at Washington University. Obama senior advisor Stephanie Cutter is praising Palin's oratorical skills and Sen. Joe Lieberman, a McCain supporter, is returning the compliment to Biden.

There's more pressure on the McCain team because he is lagging in the polls. Lieberman said he teased McCain about his slide last night when they were in the Senate:

"You got this race just where you want it to be. You are six points behind. McCain is a fighter from behind. You can't defeat this man. He is resilient and when the going gets tough, John McCain gets going," Lieberman said.

It's the first time a female has been in a major presidential debate since 1984 Geraldine Ferrarro dueled with then Vice President Bush. Cutter said it was "insulting" to suggest gender will play a role tonight.

Palin gets on stage as a new Washington Post/ABC News poll show more people are questioning whether she has the experience needed to be president.

Lieberman of Connecticut, an Independent Democrat said the challenge for Palin is to get the media to stop focusing on what she does not know. She comes to the debate following unsteady performances in high profile interviews.

This is not about gotcha and the debate is not like college finals.

"Now she's got to come out and change the discussion. I think some of the media, with all respect to everybody here, has been playing a game of gotcha with her as if she's sort of taking a final college exam. She is not," Lieberman said.

"She is taking, she is convincing she is ready to be vice president based on her strength as an individual, on her intelligence, on her values and on her proven record as the most popular governor in America who worked across party lines to change Alaskan government so I think that is what she's got to prove tonight."

"...I think she is going to be fine. ....I think she is pass the threshold tonight...this is an important night but she is ready it ...."

"I said to yourself, You are a strong, accomplished person and you have kind of a quality of strength and an appealing personality. Let it shine in the debate.

"Don't feel you have to come up with a five point answer to every foreign policy question. That is not what the American people are looking for. They are looking for someone who will represent them in Washington."

Cutter, who is also Michelle Obama's chief of staff, was asked about the role gender will play as Biden debates a female rival.

"I don't think it plays a role at all. I think it is insulting to suggest that it does. He debates women in the United States every single day," Cutter said.

"And it's something that never enters your mind when you see two senators debating each other over an important issue on the Senate floor. And It does not occur to you to take a step back to see if it is a man and a woman debating, it is two senators that are debating and our hope is that tonight people will see two vice presidential candidates debating. These are two people that could be a heartbeat away from the presidency."

BALTIMORE--I'm en route to St. Louis to cover the Sarah Palin-Joe Biden vice presidential debate. Sitting next to me on my Southwest flight is Richard Dunham, the Houston Chronicle Bureau Chief, who wrote about pitfalls Palin and Biden need to avoid tonight.

BALTIMORE--The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll shows eroding support for Sarah Palin, with the survey coming out on the day she shares a stage with Joe Biden in the only vice presidential debate of the campaign.

John McCain and Barack Obama staff hit the "spin room" following the first presidential debate in Oxford, Mississippi. (photos by Lynn Sweet)
McCain senior strategist Steve Schmidt

McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe

Obama spokesman Dan Pfeiffer

click below for more photos

Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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