Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama Tuesday urged his Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, to stop questioning his character and patriotism. Obama spoke to the same veterans group in Florida that McCain addressed the day before when he accused Obama of putting his political ambitions ahead of U.S. national interests. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has the latest on the presidential campaign from Washington.
Senator Obama told the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Orlando, Florida, that Afghanistan remains the central front in the war on terrorism, and that he was right to oppose the war in Iraq from the start.
Obama also challenged Senator McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, to refrain from further attacks on his patriotism.
"I have never suggested and never will that Senator McCain picks his positions on national security based on politics and personal ambition," Obama said. "I have not suggested it because I believe he genuinely wants to serve America's national interests. Now it is time for him to acknowledge that I want to do the same. Let me be clear-I will let no one question my love of this country. I love America, so do you, and so does John McCain."
A day earlier, Senator McCain told the same conference that Senator Obama had put his own political ambitions ahead of the national interest by trying, in McCain's words, to legislate failure in Iraq.
McCain opposes Obama's proposal for a troop withdrawal timetable in Iraq, and he criticized Obama again for refusing to acknowledge the success of the Bush administration's military surge strategy in Iraq.
"Even in retrospect, he would choose the path of failure for America over the path of success and victory," McCain said. "In short, both candidates in this election have pledged to end this war and bring our troops home. The great difference is that I intend to win it first."
Apart from the debate over Iraq, both presidential contenders are focused on picking their vice presidential running mates and getting ready for the national nominating conventions.
Obama is expected to pick his running mate first, since the Democratic convention begins Monday in Denver, Colorado. The latest media speculation focuses on Democratic Senators Joe Biden of Delaware and Evan Bayh of Indiana, and Virginia Governor Tim Kaine.
Senator McCain is expected to announce his choice shortly before the Republican convention begins on September 1 in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota.
Much of the Republican speculation has focused on Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge.
Public opinion polls show a close race at the moment with a slight edge to Obama. Both contenders will be looking to get a boost out of their party conventions before they enter the general election campaign in early September.
University of Virginia expert Larry Sabato says the presidential candidates and their parties try to maximize the impact of the modern political conventions.
"The reason why conventions still matter is because millions of voters are distracted. They are busy," Sabato said. "A convention is a wonderful opportunity for both parties to [tele] scope into just four days their major arguments on behalf of their candidate and their party."
Each party convention will last four days, and will culminate with the party nominees giving a televised acceptance speech, watched by millions, both in the U.S. and around the world.