Branding his opponent as "erratic in a crisis," Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., is preempting plans by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to portray him as having sinister connections to controversial Chicagoans.
Obama officials call it political jujitsu - turning the attacks back on the attacker.
McCain officials had said early in the weekend that they plan to begin advertising after Tuesday's debate that will tie Obama to convicted money launderer Tony Rezko and former Weathermen radical William Ayers.
But Obama isn't waiting to respond. His campaign is going up Monday on national cable stations with a scathing ad saying: "Three quarters of a million jobs lost this year. Our financial system in turmoil. And John McCain? Erratic in a crisis. Out of touch on the economy. No wonder his campaign wants to change the subject.
"Turn the page on the financial crisis by launching dishonorable, dishonest 'assaults' against Barack Obama. Struggling families can't turn the page on this economy, and we can't afford another president who is this out of touch."
Then Obama says: "I'm Barack Obama and I approved this message."
McCain officials told Politico that the new offensive is likely to focus on Rezko and Ayers. The officials said the campaign will not bring up the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama's former pastor, because McCain has forbade them from using that as a weapon. Without being specific, the officials said outside groups may focus on Wright.
When word of the planned attacks leaked Saturday, Obama officials said within hours that it was an attempt by McCain to distract voters from the economy.
""We think the McCain campaign made a huge error by telling the press that their strategy was to distract from the most important issue facing voters," a senior Obama official said. "Every attack going forward will be easy to characterize for what it is - an attempt to distract from the Bush-McCain economic record."
McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds hinted at the tough new line Saturday on "Fox & Friends."
"There are associations that are important to who Barack Obama is as a candidate, who he'd be as president," Bounds said.
Obama-Biden communications director Dan Pfeiffer said about the new ads: "If John McCain thinks he can 'turn the page' on the economic crisis facing American families, he is even more out of touch than we imagined. Now there may be no good answers for John McCain due to his erratic response to the financial crisis, but his desire to avoid discussing the economy is something we will remind voters of everyday for the next month."
By Mike Allen
© 2008 POLITICO