Washington, Oct.4 : Republican presidential candidate John McCain is reportedly preparing to launch a more aggressive and "gloves off" assault on Democratic rival Barack Obama's character.
According to a Washington Post report, the Republican's focus will be on Obama's judgment, honesty and personal associations. With just a month to go until Election Day, McCain's team has decided that its emphasis on the senator's biography as a war hero, experienced lawmaker and straight-talking maverick is insufficient to close a growing gap with Obama.
The Arizonan's campaign is also eager to move the conversation away from the economy.
"We're going to get a little tougher. We've got to question this guy's associations. Very soon. There's no question that we have to change the subject here," said a senior Republican operative, while indicating that a fresh batch of television ads is coming.
The paper, however, believes that aggression could backfire on McCain, especially when frustration with Washington politics is acute and a desire for specifics on how to fix the economy and fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is strong.
Robert Gibbs, a top Obama adviser, dismissed the new McCain strategy. "This isn't 1988. I don't think the country is going to be distracted by the trivial," he said.
Obama, he said, will continue to focus on the economy, saying that Americans will remain concerned about the country's economic troubles even as the Wall Street crisis eases somewhat.
Moments after the House of Representatives approved a bailout package for Wall Street on Friday afternoon, the McCain campaign released a television ad that challenges Obama's honesty and asks, "Who is Barack Obama?" The ad alleges that "Senator Obama voted 94 times for higher taxes. Ninety-four times. He's not truthful on taxes."
A senior campaign official called the ad "just the beginning" of commercials that will "strike the new tone" in the campaign's final days. The official said the "aggressive tone" would center on the question of "whether this guy is ready to be president."