Democrat Barack Obama on Thursday depicted John McCain as rich, out of touch and less a foreign-policy expert than he claims _ part of the increasingly negative tone of the presidential hopeful's message as he tries to fight the perception that his campaign has stalled.
Two national polls released Thursday showed McCain has drawn almost even with Obama in the last few weeks, thanks to an aggressive new tone and a series of negative campaign commercials painting Obama as a tax raiser who is ill-prepared to lead in a dangerous world. That, in turn, has prompted Obama to step up his rhetoric against McCain.
Both an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll and a CBS News/New York Times survey found Obama leading McCain by just three percentage points, 45 to 42 percent.
At a town hall meeting in Richmond, Virginia, Obama was introduced by the state's Gov. Tim Kaine, widely believed to be on the short list of possible vice presidential contenders. The two men met privately for about 15 minutes before the campaign appearance, and Kaine batted away questions about his prospects.
"I'm going to let the campaign speak for the campaign," Kaine said.
Speaking to supporters, Obama chided McCain for an interview he gave to the Politico news Web site in which he said he did not know how many homes he owns. McCain's wife, Cindy, is an heiress to a large beer distributorship whose wealth is estimated to be at least $100 million.
"If you're like me, and you've got one house, or you are like the millions of people who are struggling right now to keep up with their mortgage so they don't lose their home, you might have a different perspective," Obama said.
McCain's gaffe was a lucky break for the Illinois senator, a Harvard-educated millionaire who has battled Republican efforts to depict him as elitist and out of touch with working-class concerns. He and his wife, Michelle, own a home in Chicago purchased for $1.65 million in 2005.
Obama also struck a defensive tone, saying that despite his limited experience on the national stage he has shown better judgment on foreign affairs than has McCain. The Arizona senator has run television ads casting Obama as a lightweight celebrity unready to be commander in chief.
"I will put my judgment on foreign policy over the last five years against John McCain's anytime. Anytime," Obama said. He insisted the war in Iraq _ which McCain strongly supported _ was a mistake and that the so-called troop surge McCain championed has not produced the political reconciliation needed to achieve lasting peace there.
"I think an objective analysis would say I've been right a lot more than he has, for all his years in Washington," Obama said, adding that he would consult with knowledgeable foreign policy advisers as president, including Republicans like Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel and Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar.
Obama also said McCain had no record of leadership on education policy or on energy, which has emerged as a central issue in the campaign.