Tuesday, Democratic Sen. Barack Obama told a Virginia audience that Republican Senator John McCain was seizing on the change message while sticking with the policies of George W. Bush. Now the McCain campaign is calling Obama's comment about putting lipstick on a pig, a smear of Republican Governor Sarah Palin.
The McCain Web ad starts with Palin's now famous line from her convention speech.
"You know, they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pitt bull -- lipstick."
And then it portrays Obama saying the following about Palin.
"You know you can't -- you can put lipstick on a pig, it's still a pig."
The ad wraps up with a comment form CBS News Anchor Katie Couric about sexism, and then accuses Obama of smearing Palin.
"It's a calculated, everyday, in-your-face, take-no-prisoners strategy by Steve Schmidt," says Democratic political strategist Gale Kaufman in reference to McCain's chief strategist Steve Schmidt. She says she watched Schmidt, a Karl Rove protégé, use similar tactics when Schmidt ran California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's reelection campaign.
"He kept Arnold away from the cameras except when he wanted them to talk to him. He never made him available all the time and he attacked and attacked and attacked," says Kaufman.
Kaufman also says the news media is being manipulated. Our political analyst thinks so, too.
"It's very clear that the strategy is to keep on doing this every day to make a new outrageous claim and to keep the Obama people off balance and to also make sure that there is really no discussion of the issues," says Professor Bruce Cain, UC's political expert in Washington and ABC7 political analyst.
Cain says McCain wants to keep the conversation about character rather than issues because Obama polls better on the issues. So the tactic is to control the media.
"Once again, if the media complain about it, they'll simply say the media are liberal, they can't be trusted. I think that's basically what the plan is and they will pursue that as long as it works," says Cain.
We ran that by Republican political strategist and ad expert Bob Gardner.
"I don't think there is an effort to take the media out, but the media is on the defensive and Democrats are definitely on the defensive," says Gardner who think Democratic strategists like Kaufman are just whining. "Karl Rove is called an evil genius and the Democrats are equally evil. They just don't have the genius."
What about the media manipulation?
"Regardless of what the Republican operatives do, the media does what it wants to do. So if it wants to start focusing back on issues, it can do that in a second," says Gardner.
And some news organizations will. ABC's Charlie Gibson will air an interview with Palin Thursday night on World News Tonight at 5:30 p.m.
As for the McCain lipstick ad, don't look for it on YouTube. It was pulled after CBS complained about the clip of Couric used in the ad.