The Obama campaign says the proposed visit was cancelled because it was a campaign trip (not a congressional delegation trip like the one he took to Iraq and Afghanistan where he met with wounded troops). And despite some back-and-forth with the Pentagon over the specifics of what happened, the Obama campaign points out that such a visit on the campaign's dime would have been singled out for criticism had he gone.
Specifics aside, the McCain camp's decision to roll out their criticism in a tough ad is the latest example of an increasingly aggressive (dare we say "negative") tone. Whether the issue is Iraq, Iran, the economy or energy policy, McCain's criticisms of Obama are growing sharper and more pointed. Given the success of Obama's rock star trek overseas and the lead the Democrat holds in the polls, the stepped-up attacks might be understandable.
But does McCain risk losing one of the few advantages he has by doing so? In this very difficult environment for Republicans, McCain has still managed to float above his party label for the most part. His reputation as a "maverick" may have hurt him within his own party, but makes him more popular among independent voters. And even those who may disagree with him on most issues don't have the same level of dislike they might for President Bush or other Republicans.
Simply put, McCain is likeable – or at least does not generate the same deep level of divisions that have become part of presidential politics. Obama may be ahead in this race but does not seem to have "closed the deal" with voters. In the next 99 days, there will be plenty of opportunities for him to do that – or raise more questions in the minds of voters about the riskiness of elevating someone so new to the stage to the presidency.
The GOP campaign will certainly do their best to raise those kinds of questions but if he's seen as too negative or overly aggressive, McCain may not find himself in a position to benefit from concerns voters might have on Election Day.
Around The Track
ground when he makes the historic speech," the AP reports, "with almost 6,000 delegates seated on the field."