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Surrogates trade barbs, claims as polls tighten

The big brass ring for Barack Obama and John McCain in this year’s election may just be “The Bubba Vote.” Meet the Press interim moderator Tom Brokaw discussed the term recently used by Former House majority leader Dick Armey, defined as white working class swing voters who may not be “emotionally prepared to vote for a black man.”

NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd proclaimed these unpollable ballot-casters as a stealth demographic that will determine the country’s next president in a close election.

And according to Todd, the news is not particularly good for Obama.    “These are folks that if you probe them on issues, they say that the economy is moving in the wrong direction, they tell you that the economy stinks…They’re voting for Democrats for Congress, and they’re voting for Democrats for the Senate.  Then you ask them about the   presidential race and they say, ‘I don’t know yet.  I’m undecided.’    They don’t tell you why they are undecided.  It’s that voter [he has to worry about]…he’s going to lose 70 percent of the undecideds.”

It was no surprise that as the McCain camp enjoyed a bounce in the polls with a rejuvenated base, and the Obama camp fretted over looking weak, the campaigns sent out two aggressive message-pounders to tussle with Brokaw. Senior Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and former New York City Mayor and Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani came out strong for the Obama and McCain campaigns respectively.

Schumer led off by laying blame at the feet of the Republicans for the fear-mongering tactics of recent months since McCain brought in Karl Rove ally Steve Schmidt to oversee the day-to-day handling of his campaign. “Barack Obama, to his credit, would like the campaign just to be on the big issues,” he claimed, “but under Karl Rove’s leadership McCain is doing what Karl Rove does: small-board, nasty, and diversionary.”

Referring to the GOP nominees as the “McCain-Palin-Bush” ticket, Schumer questioned their new mantra of bringing change to Washington. “McCain-Palin has peaked,” he argued.    “Fundamentals matter in a race like this, and they can’t win running on a fundamental mistruth…they do not represent change.”

Schumer questioned Gov. Sarah Palin’s campaigning on the basis of reform. “She talks the talk, but so far she hasn’t walked the walk,” he said. He called on her to admonish Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, who was indicted on charges related to corruption, and for her to allow Alaska employees to talk to the investigators looking into her alleged push to fire a state trooper.  “Stonewalling is not new politics,”  said Stevens.

For his part, Giuliani said there were key differences between the President Bush and John McCain, pointing out that while Sen. McCain was supportive of the war, he has been critical of the administration's earlier Iraq strategy.

Giuliani also laid the blame for campaign nastiness on Senator Obama for refusing to debate McCain in a series of town hall appearances. The former mayor cited the nominees’ cordial joint appearances this week in New York City to commemorate 9-11 as examples of what happens when they share the stage. 

When questioned by Brokaw on his mocking tone during former mayor's Republican National Convention speech when he used the words "community organizer,"  Giuliani said he was critical not of the job, but of Obama's accomplishments in that field. “Sure community organizers do good work, and some don’t do very good work.  Just like lawyers, or everybody else. The question is what kind of work did, did Barack Obama do and how effective was it long-term?” 

He also admonished the press for “how little [this fact] was looked at by the media.”

Of the “Bubba vote”  Giuliani said that he hoped the American electorate could get past racial bias. “[John McCain] doesn’t want any vote from anyone who’s voting for him based on race, and I think that same thing would be true for Barack Obama,” he said.  “Unfortunately, there are people out there who are going to vote based on race one way or another.  I hope that we’re beyond that.”