Tough Test for Obama: Countering McCain Campaign’s Character Attacks

Democratic strategists say Obama will have to defend his values—and keep the focus on the economy.

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Democratic strategists say one of presidential nominee Barack Obama's biggest tests in the month before Election Day will be to show he is tough enough to counter rising Republican attacks—and at the same time keep his main focus on the economic crisis and other issues that seem to benefit him, such as healthcare reform.

Obama advisers, it turns out, were correct in predicting that Republican candidate John McCain would launch a final assault on Obama to impugn his character.

That effort started over the weekend when GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin reminded voters of Obama's past association with former anti-Vietnam War radical William Ayers. And McCain insiders say the criticism will continue.

A senior Obama strategist expressed doubt that such character issues will have the same power they once did because the troubled economy is overwhelming all other concerns.

But he conceded that Obama, like many other Democrats, isn't as comfortable talking publicly about "values" such as patriotism and religion as he is discussing healthcare and other policy issues.

Obama largely considers values a private matter for each individual, the strategist said. In any case, the strategist added, "The intimacy of the economic angst is hard to beat this time."

Obama is being urged to hit back hard on the economy and argue that McCain and fellow Republicans are unwilling to protect everyday Americans from "financial predators out there who are seeking to do Americans harm," such as some Wall Street investors, bankers, and healthcare providers.