ABC News' David Wright reports: Who knew Paris and Britney would ever be a campaign issue???
The McCain campaign's decision to feature the women in a 30-second spot accusing rival Sen. Barack Obama of being a shallow celebrity has consumed the campaign debate today.
At a town hall meeting in Racine, Wisc., Republican Sen. John McCain tried to steer clear. But a young voter wouldn't let him off the hook.
"It seems to me that you've flip flopped," 23 year old Obama supporter Wendy Chavours-Freeman said, referring to McCain's promises to run a clean campaign on the issues.
McCain defended the ad. "All I can say is we’re proud of that commercial," McCain said. "We think Americans need to know that I believe that we should base this campaign on what we can do for Americans at home and how we can make Americans safe and prosperous and that’s the theme of our campaign."
"I respect and admire sen Obama, but we have stark differences," McCain said. "And those differences need to be drawn."
"These campaigns are tough," he said, "But I'm proud of the campaign we've run."
Earlier today, McCain's campaign manager went so far as to issue a statement accusing Obama of "playing the race card."
"Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck. It’s divisive, negative, shameful and wrong,” said Rick Davis in a statement.
Davis was responding to Obama's own comments Wednesday in response to the ad. Obama told reporters: "The only way they figure they’re going to win this election is if they make you scared of me. So what they’re saying is, "Well, we know we’re not very good but you can’t risk electing Obama. You know, he’s new, he doesn’t look like the other presidents on the currency, you know, he’s got a funny name."
Today in Cedar Rapids, Obama chided McCain for raising what he considers a trivial issue: "Given the seriousness of the issues, you’d think we could have a serious debate. But so far, all we've been hearing about is Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. I mean, I do have to ask my opponent, is that the best you can come up with? Is that really what this election is about? Is that what is worthy of the American people?"
For his part, McCain renewed his call for frequent town hall debates with Obama, an offer Obama has so far refused. "Yesterday in case you missed it, he wanted to have a duel. I'm not sure what sort of weapons he had in mind," McCain chuckled. "Why can't we just have a discussion?"