WASHINGTON – Barack Obama thinks John McCain is losing his credibility as a maverick.
Sure, the Arizona Republican has sometimes refused to go along with his party. Sure, he has occasionally cussed out Senate colleagues. And, yes, the word “maverick” is regularly attached to his name in the media.
But that was before McCain became the Republican presidential candidate. Now, Obama says, he has started changing his positions to please the party.
“That doesn’t exactly meet my definition of a maverick,” the Democratic presidential candidate told supporters in Indiana this week.
“You can’t be a maverick when politically it’s working for you and not a maverick when it doesn’t work for you,” Obama said.
The Illinois senator began taking jabs at McCain’s maverick image after suffering a week of taunts and insults from the Arizona senator’s campaign. McCain’s aides ridiculed Obama as a celebrity and accused of him injecting race into the campaign.
With some polls showing McCain gaining ground and the two candidates in a virtual tie, Obama is fighting back with his own negative attacks.
He has rolled out speeches and an ad challenging McCain’s maverick image, ridiculing a recent TV spot that touted the Arizona senator as “the original maverick.”
“Really?” Obama’s ad questions before cutting to a 5-year-old clip of McCain saying he had voted to back President George W. Bush 90 percent of the time.
“Maverick, or just more of the same?” the ad asks as the image on screen expands to show McCain posed in a photo with Bush.
The Democratic National Committee rolled out its own ad saying much the same thing: “Maverick No More.”
Ridicule or not, McCain is embracing the maverick moniker.
“You may have noticed that I have been called a maverick,” he told an Ohio crowd Thursday. “Sometimes it’s meant as a compliment. Sometimes it’s meant as a criticism, sometimes worse.
“But what it really means is that I understand who I work for. I don’t work for a party. I don’t work for a president. I don’t work for a special interest and I don’t work for myself. I work for you and the country we love.”
Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.
Photo credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder (McCain greets a veteran in Maine July 21)