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McCain Defends Obama To Supporters

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McCain Defends Obama To Supporters

Election 2008: On the Campaign Trail

McCain Defends Obama To Supporters

McCain Defends Obama To Supporters

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Watching John McCain campaign Friday was like watching the stock market. The Republican presidential nominee alternated attacking Barack Obama and defending him.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

A legislative report in Alaska has found that Governor Sarah Palin violated ethics rules by trying to remove her former brother-in-law from his job with the state police. John McCain's campaign dismissed the findings as without basis and said the investigation was tainted by partisan politics. Campaigning yesterday, the Republican presidential nominee alternated between attacking Barack Obama and actually defending him. NPR's Scott Horsley has the first of two reports on the campaign.

SCOTT HORSLEY: All week, John McCain's campaign has been suggesting that Barack Obama is too risky to be president. They've pointed to his contacts with an education professor, William Ayers, who was once part of the radical Weather Underground that bombed government buildings during the Vietnam War. That message hit home with Minnesota resident Brian Fisher(ph), who spoke up at McCain's town hall meeting outside Minneapolis.

Mr. BRIAN FISHER: My wife and I are expecting our first child, and frankly we're scared. We're scared of an Obama presidency.

HORSLEY: And that's when McCain said something rather surprising.

Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Republican Presidential Nominee): I want to be president of the United States, and obviously I do no want Senator Obama to be. But I have to tell you - I have to tell you, he is a decent person, and a person that you do not have to be scared as president of the United States.

HORSLEY: For a moment, it sounded as if McCain were backing away from the too risky message of his own TV ads. But 15 minutes later, McCain was hammering away again, saying Obama had understated his relationship with Ayers.

Senator MCCAIN: Senator Obama said that Mr. Ayers was a guy in the neighborhood, when in reality Senator Obama's political career was launched in Mr. Ayers' living room.

HORSLEY: McCain also criticized Obama's positions on taxes and abortion. But he came to his opponent's defense again when a woman said she couldn't trust Obama and mistakenly called him an Arab.

Senator MCCAIN: No, ma'am. No, ma'am. He is a descent family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues. And that's what this campaign is all about.

HORSLEY: McCain has long said he wants to run a respectful campaign. Yesterday's town hall suggests he's uncomfortable with the tone some of his supporters have taken and perhaps with his own tone as well. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Minneapolis.

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