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McCain Camp Skirts Details on Obama-Blagojevich Connection

More from the McCain campaign conference call featuring senior adviser Steve Schmidt and campaign manager Rick Davis:

After disparaging The New York Times and the rest of the media, the campaign officials did get around to the stated purpose of the call — discussing the new ad linking Sen. Barack Obama to key figures within the “Chicago political machine.”

Schmidt assured reporters that the ad was part of a real ad buy — unlike many of the campaign’s past ads, which had been released to the press and never aired. Schmidt declined to say how much money the campaign spent on the media buy. Schmidt said the ad would air in battleground states.

When asked about a line in the ad that mentions Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, without giving any context or information about his connection to Obama, Schmidt was unable to offer any details on the relationship, other than they were both politicians from Illinois.

“They obviously have a close relationship. He’s someone who is under investigation. He comes out of a corrupt machine. Sen. Obama very directly has introduced the issue of associations in this campaign, I think raising fundamentally, that you can tell something about people by the company they keep.”

Finally, Davis responded to a question about whether, in light of the current economic crisis, this ad opens McCain up to criticism to his connections to Charles Keating Jr., the central figure in the Keating Five corruption scandal, in which McCain was implicated but later cleared of wrongdoing. Davis pointed to recent comments by Robert Bennett, the special investigator in the case, who said he recommended to the Senate Ethics Committee that charges not be pursued against McCain for a lack of evidence.

“With regard to the Keating situation, which is a story that is very old, almost two decades, and you go back and you look at the comments of Mr. Bennett, for example, who was the Democratic counsel to the committee, you look at some of the other comments that have been made by people, Sen. McCain, there was a lot of politics involved in that.”

Davis then steered his answer back to Obama’s relationship to Rezko, who Davis referred to as “a slumlord,” and its relevance to the current housing crisis.

However, McCain was also criticized in the Keating affair for taking free flights on Keating’s private jet, and for vacationing at Keating’s residence in the Bahamas. Now that McCain is aggressively attacking Obama for his questionable relationships, it seems likely that the Obama campaign will return fire on Keating.

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