By David Saltonstall
Daily News Senior Correspondent
The simmering issue of race boiled over on the presidential campaign trail today after John McCain's camp accused Barack Obama—the first African American with a real shot at the presidency—of playing the race card.
The harsh attack came after Obama predicted McCain and Republicans would try to scare voters about him and say he doesn't look like other presidents on dollar bills.
"Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck," McCain campaign manager Rick Davis said in a statement. "It's divisive, negative, shameful and wrong."
Obama, campaigning in Missouri Wednesday, said President Bush and McCain would play to fear to maintain their hold on the White House because they have nothing to offer voters.
"Nobody thinks that Bush and McCain have a real answer to the challenges we face. So what they're going to try to do is make you scared of me," Obama said. "You know, 'he's not patriotic enough, he's got a funny name,' you know, 'he doesn't look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills."'
While race has been an undercurrent throughout the presidential contest, McCain has never used Obama's African-American heritage as an issue. In fact, the Arizona senator has routinely condemned people who try to inject race into the daily debate.
Back in February, McCain apologized after radio host Bill Cunningham introduced him at a Cincinnati event by repeatedly referring to his opponent as "Barack Hussein Obama."
A month later, McCain also suspended a campaign blogger for sending out a link to a video that attempted to tie Obama to the black power movement, rappers and Malcolm X.
Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said today that his boss was not referring to race when he said that Republicans would try to paint him as different.
"What Barack Obama was talking about was that he didn't get here after spending decades in Washington," Gibbs said. "There is nothing more to this than the fact that he was describing that he was new to the political scene. He was referring to the fact that he didn't come into the race with the history of others. It is not about race."
With News Wire Services