Obama aides say Ayers hosted a fundraiser for him years ago, but the two have never "palled around" and Obama has denounced Ayers's violent past. In Asheville, N.C., Obama said, "Senator McCain and his operatives are gambling that he can distract you with smears rather than talk to you about substance. They'd rather try to tear our campaign down than lift this country up. This is what you do when you're out of touch, out of ideas, and running out of time."
Another line of attack will be to connect Obama with Chicago businessman Tony Rezko, who has been convicted of corruption charges, McCain advisers say.
In addition, anti-Obama groups outside the McCain campaign are expected to resurrect the controversial anti-American, antiwhite comments of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who was Obama's pastor for many years, in an effort to link the Democratic candidate to controversial characters who might jeopardize his reputation.
The main goal of McCain for the month remaining until Election Day will be to shift attention from the economy, his aides say. "When the story day after day is how much we're suffering from a crisis like the Great Depression, it's hard for the party in power not to lose ground," says a senior McCain adviser. Voters tend to blame the Republicans and McCain for the current economic downturn because Republican President George W. Bush has controlled the executive branch for the past eight years.