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McCain seeks to shift race’s focus

Tuesday’s debate is a chance to regain campaign momentum.

Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama talk with moderator Jim Lehrer following their debate at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss., Sept. 26, 2008. McCain is hoping for a strong performance in Tuesday's debate. Obama has taken a lead in US polls and with independents.

LM Otero/AP

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With Barack Obama continuing to consolidate his lead in the polls, John McCain needs a game-changer.

He’s counting on two things to bring that about: an aggressive advertising attack on the Illinois senator and a great performance in Tuesday’s town-hall-style debate in Nashville, Tenn.

The goal is to shift attention away from America’s economic crisis and again raise questions about the Democrat’s readiness to lead as well as his associations in the past.

The opening salvo came over the weekend when Senator McCain’s running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, attacked Senator Obama for “palling around with terrorists” because of a past association with William Ayers, a Chicago education professor. In the 1960s, Mr. Ayers was a member of the Weather Underground, which claimed responsibility for several bombing attacks.

The Obama camp called the comment “desperate, false, and offensive,” and it noted that the two men did know each other but that Obama has always condemned Ayers’s “detestable acts.”

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