Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama took a more aggressive tone Wednesday in responding to attacks from his Republican opponent, Senator John McCain. The increasingly negative tone to the campaign for the White House comes amid polls showing McCain surging since last week's Republican convention. More now from VOA National correspondent Jim Malone in Washington.
On Tuesday, Senator Obama told a crowd in Virginia that John McCain would basically continue the policies of President Bush.
Obama questioned McCain's claim to be an agent of change, adding "you can put lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig."
The McCain campaign pounced on Obama's comment as offensive and disgraceful, and said it targeted McCain's vice presidential running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.
Senator Obama denied that charge Wednesday in Norfolk, Virginia, and accused the McCain campaign of waging a negative campaign against him that uses lies and underhanded tactics.
"Then we go another year or another four years or another eight years without addressing the issues that matter to you," he said. "Enough! I don't care what they say about me, but I love this country too much to let them take over another election with lies and phony outrage and Swift boat politics. Enough is enough."
The Swift boat reference is connected to Democrat John Kerry's presidential campaign in 2004, when he came under attack from fellow Navy veterans of the Vietnam War, who claimed he exaggerated his war record.
Obama's more aggressive tone in responding to the McCain campaign comes amid new polls that show the Republican ticket of McCain and Palin gaining on Obama and his vice presidential running mate, Senator Joe Biden.
Palin has proven to be a very popular pick among social conservatives and among some women voters.
The Republicans have also fashioned an appeal to centrist voters, with McCain and Palin now casting themselves as political mavericks bent on changing and reforming Washington.
Palin and McCain appeared together Wednesday at a rally in northern Virginia.
"Because my friends, let there be no doubt, we are going to win this election, and let me offer an advance warning to the old, big-spending, do-nothing, me-first, country-second Washington crowd-change is coming, change is coming, and it's coming to our nation's capital and we will clean it up," McCain said.
McCain's rise in the polls and the quick ascendancy of Palin as a national figure have eroded Democratic confidence, and have spurred Democrats to urge Obama to fight back more sharply against Republican attacks.
The McCain campaign has also formed a group of Republican women called the Palin Truth Squad, which will defend the Alaska governor against what the Republicans believe are unfair Democratic attacks.