By Caren Bohan
ELKHART, Indiana (Reuters) – Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama took aim at Republican John McCain’s maverick image on Wednesday as the campaign trail took another negative turn.
McCain hit Obama with a television advertisement that belittled him as “the biggest celebrity in the world,” one who would raise taxes on families in America.
“Raising taxes in a bad economy is about the worst thing you could do because it will kill even more jobs when what we need are policies that create jobs,” McCain said at a kitchen cabinet plant in Jackson, Ohio.
Even celebrity Paris Hilton got a word in edgewise, issuing a video response to a McCain ad last week that likened Obama to celebrities like her and Britney Spears.
Hilton lies in a pool chair wearing a designer swimsuit and heels, looks up from reading a magazine and upbraids McCain–who she calls “white-haired dude”–and says she supports an energy plan hybrid of McCain’s and Obama’s.
Obama, unable to break out of a close race with McCain in public opinion polls, went on the attack against the Arizona senator at a town hall meeting in the traditionally Republican state of Indiana.
A new poll by the Pew Research Center reported what it called “Obama fatigue” among many Americans, saying 48 percent of those polled said they have been hearing “too much” about him.
He appeared with a potential vice presidential running mate, Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh, who had supported Obama rival Hillary Clinton earlier this year.
Obama’s appearance with Bayh stirred speculation on whether Bayh might get the nod as Obama’s running mate. He called Bayh “one of the finest United States senators that we have.”
Obama said McCain likes to portray himself as a maverick but that he ceded the role by adopting many conventional Republican policies to win his party’s presidential nomination for the November 4 election, which is now 90 days away.
“You can’t be a maverick when politically it’s working for you and not a maverick when it doesn’t work for you, when you received your party’s nomination,” Obama said.
The subject of the day again was energy, as Americans digging deep into their pockets to pay for $4-a-gallon gasoline look to the candidates for clues as to how the next president will help them.
Taking issue with a McCain TV ad from Tuesday that said Washington is broken and only McCain can fix it, Obama said it only took McCain 26 years serving in the U.S. Congress to figure out there are problems in the U.S. capital.
“If Senator McCain wants to talk about how Washington is broken, that’s a debate I’m happy to have. Because Senator McCain’s energy plan reads like an early Christmas list for oil and gas lobbyists. It’s no wonder — because many of his top advisers are former oil and gas lobbyists,” Obama said.
Obama spokesman Bill Burton was critical of the new McCain ad. He accused McCain, 71, of pushing “tired, failed policies.”
McCain said in Ohio that the U.S. economy needs the same kind of boost that added U.S. troops gave to Iraq, helping the country gain some measure of stability. “What we need today is an economic surge. Our surge has succeeded in Iraq militarily. Now we need an economic surge to keep jobs here at home and to create new ones,” he said.
Democrats said McCain relies on increased drilling for oil, even though McCain supports a mix of policies, including alternative energy sources.
Republicans criticized Obama for encouraging Americans to put more air pressure in their tires to extend gasoline mileage, though Obama backs many other ways to wean the country’s from foreign oil, including a windfall profits tax on oil companies to pay for a $1,000 tax rebate.