John McCain accuses Barack Obama of playing race card

Other News Materials 1 August 2008 04:14 (UTC +04:00)

Senator John McCain's campaign has accused Barack Obama of playing racial politics after the Democratic presidential candidate predicted Republicans would try to scare voters by pointing out "he doesn't look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills". ( Telegraph )

The exchange marked the most explicit clash on race in the US presidential campaign since Mr Obama became the first African-American to win a major party's nomination.

Race has been a sensitive issue for Mr Obama, who is overwhelmingly popular with black voters, but has found it difficult to sway some of his party's white working-class base.

The McCain team was reacting to remarks made by Mr Obama on Wednesday, when he said that President George W Bush and Mr McCain will resort to scare tactics to maintain their hold on the White House because they have little else to offer voters.

"Nobody thinks that Bush and McCain have a real answer to the challenges we face. So what they're going to try to do is make you scared of me," Mr Obama said. "You know, 'he's not patriotic enough, he's got a funny name,' you know, 'he doesn't look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills'."

Rick Davis, the Republican candidate's campaign manager, said that the Illinois Democrat had "played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck", and described Mr Obama's comments as "divisive, negative, shameful and wrong".

Mr McCain told reporters that he agreed, saying: "I'm disappointed that Senator Obama would say the things he's saying."

In his remarks, Mr Obama did not specify what he thinks a comparison with presidents on dollar bills would imply - though the currency features older, white men.

Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said that the candidate was not referring to race.

"What Barack Obama was talking about was that he didn't get here after spending decades in Washington," he said. "There is nothing more to this than the fact that he was describing that he was new to the political scene."

Mr Obama has not shied away from describing himself physically.

Speaking to 200,000 people in Berlin, he said: "I know that I don't look like the Americans who've previously spoken in this great city," alluding to former presidents John F Kennedy and Ronald Reagan who gave historic speeches there.

Addressing supporters on Tuesday at a fundraiser, he said, "It's a leap, electing a 46-year-old black guy named Barack Obama."

The campaign has descended into personal attacks in the past week, with Mr McCain releasing two advertisements attacking Mr Obama's commitment to US troops and his celebrity.