World and Nation

With Democrats Worried, Obama Plans Sharper Attacks

Sen. Barack Obama plans to intensify his assault against Sen. John McCain, with new television advertisements and more forceful attacks by the candidate and surrogates beginning Friday morning, as he confronts an invigorated Republican presidential ticket and increasing nervousness in the Democratic ranks

McCain’s choice of Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate and the resulting jolt of energy among Republican voters appear to have caught Obama and his advisers by surprise and added to concern among some Democrats that the Obama campaign was not pushing back hard enough against Republican attacks in a critical phase of the race.

Some Democrats said Obama needed to move to seize control of the campaign and to block McCain from snatching away from him the message that he was the best hope to bring change to Washington.

After back-to-back attack ads by McCain, including one that misleadingly accused Obama of endorsing sex education for kindergarten students, the Obama campaign is planning to sharpen attacks on McCain and Palin in an effort to counter McCain’s attempt to present himself as the candidate of change with his choice of Palin. The new tone is to be presented in a speech by Obama in New Hampshire and backed up by new television advertisements and appearances across the country by supporters.

In addition, advertising themes will be pay equity for women, an issue that has particular resonance as the campaigns battle for female voters, and a more pointed linking of McCain to President Bush and Republicans in Washington.

But Obama’s aides said they were confident with the course of the campaign. They said that, other than making some shifts around the edges, particularly in response to McCain’s effort to seize the change issue from Obama, they were not planning any major deviation from a strategy that called for a steady escalation of attacks on McCain as the race heads toward the debates.

That response is characteristic for a campaign that has presented itself as disciplined and unflappable and is reminiscent of the way Obama’s campaign reacted a year ago when it came under fire from allies who said it was not being tough enough in going after Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“We’re sensitive to the fluid dynamics of the campaign, but we have a game plan and a strategy,” said Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe. “We’re familiar with this. And I’m sure between now and Nov. 4 there will be another period of hand-wringing and bed-wetting. It comes with the territory.”

Still, Democrats outside the campaign suggested that Obama should be viewing the situation with a greater sense of urgency.

“The Obama message has been disrupted in the last week,” said Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala. “It’s a time for Democrats to focus on what the fundamentals are in this election.”

Phil Singer, who served as a press secretary for Clinton in her primary campaign against Obama, said, “The Obama people need to reboot and figure out ways to make the McCain-Bush argument newsworthy again.”