June 23, 2008
(AP) - A presidential candidate who's named Hussein and wears a turban? A building that's called the White House but run by a black guy?
Those political images and ideas already have found their way onto TV airwaves and campaign buttons. They may be possible harbingers of racially tinged messages in a general election involving the first black candidate to head a major party's ticket.
Though the election is more than four months away, the campaigns of Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain are shaping their strategies for dealing with such appeals.
The Obama campaign vows to fight back fiercely and fast, not repeating John Kerry's mistake of waiting to respond to the 2004 "Swift Boat" ads that Democrats saw as a smear of his military record.
McCain's camp is alert for attacks too.
The McCain campaign promises to condemn any race-based political
appeals. But it also insists it won't stand still for false charges of racism or for allegations merely aimed at preventing criticism of Obama on legitimate issues.
"Every word will be twisted to make it about race," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a McCain friend and adviser. When he and others confront Obama on issues such as national security and the economy, Graham said, it will have "nothing to do with him being an African-American."
Obama adviser David Axelrod said the Democrat's campaign will be on high alert for code words or innuendo meant to play on voters' racial sentiments. "We're going to be aggressive about pushing back on anything that we feel is inappropriate or misleading," he said.