Discuss as:

McCain doesn't want tit-for-tat with Mitt

From NBC's Bethany Thomas
DOVER, NH -- On the Straight Talk Express between two town halls in New Hampshire, news broke that the Romney camp had released a new negative ad against McCain

After McCain was read the script of the ad from a journalist's blackberry, he said he was not surprised by the new attack, the second in such days. "I think we expected it... We did have a response ad and I think it's effective. But for us to get down in that tit for tat -- we're just not going to do that."

Senior strategist Charlie Black said the voters will question Romney -- not McCain -- over the latest round of ads. "The biggest issue in the race right now is not what [McCain] says on any specific issue. It's Romney's credibility."

One of the topics taken into question by Romney: McCain's stance on Social Security for illegal immigrants. McCain's response: "They're talking about the Social Security thing. How a person who is here illegally under a false name is ever going to get Social Security -- you can't do it."

The McCain campaign responded with an ad Friday that Black says will hold its own, no matter how many more ads Romney puts out. "Look, he can throw up six more ads between now and [January 8] that say all kinds of stuff, but the people won't believe it... He's stuck somewhere around 30% and [McCain's] moving [in the polls]."

McCain: "I think it's very important for us to say. 'Look, we responded to his attacks with the quotes from two leading newspapers and that's our response.' For us to just keep going back and forth -- that's just not something, that's not productive.

*** UPDATE *** Romney spokesman Kevin Madden takes issue with McCain's comment on Social Security and illegal immigration. McCain voted on an amendment that would have allowed illegal immigrants to receive Social Security credits for the time they were working here and in the country illegally. Why is this important?  For starters, in order to qualify for full Social Security benefits, you have to work a certain number of quarters.

Second, Social Security benefits are based on a calculation of wages earned over your working history. So, in practical terms that means that if a person came here in their 20s and is now 50, under the amendment McCain voted for, he or she would get the benefit of 30 YEARS of Social Security credits instead of starting at zero at 50 years old.

Additionally, speaking in practical terms, if the person was here illegally, how would the right benefit calculation be determined? It would be virtually impossible. 
 
So the information provided stating that McCain supported "extending benefits" to illegal immigrants is entirely accurate in that his vote would give illegal immigrants Social Security credits that they would not have gotten previously."