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McCain defends ad, agrees with Davis

From NBC/NJ's Adam Aigner-Treworgy

RACINE, Wisc. -- Just hours after his campaign manager accused Obama of playing the race card, McCain appeared at the Racine Civic Center here and pushed the same message he has been pushing all week: Obama's actions don't match his words.

In his opening remarks, McCain repeated lines he has been using for the past two days, saying Obama is an "impressive speaker" who has excited millions of "young" voters, but it will take more than words to change Washington.

"I have asked Sen. Obama to travel across this country with me and engage in town hall meetings," McCain said. "He has refused to do so, and yesterday he -- in case you missed it -- he wanted to have a duel. I'm not sure exactly what weapons he had in mind, but why don't we just sit down together and have a discussion, because that discussion has got to be with the American people."

This back-and-forth between Obama and McCain has heated up in recent days, especially since the release of the new McCain TV ad dubbing Obama a "celebrity." The media has not had the opportunity to ask the GOP senator about the new ad or about this week's line of attack, but a questioner did the job today by asking if McCain had flip-flopped on his pledge to run a positive campaign.    

"First of all, let me say there are differences and we are drawing those differences, and I said earlier, I admire his campaign," McCain began. "But what we are talking about here is substance and not style, and what we are talking about is who has an agenda for the future of America. …So, all I can say is that we are proud of that commercial. We think Americans need to know that I believe that we should base this campaign on what we can do for Americans here at home and how we can make America safe and prosperous and that is the theme of our campaign."

But that doesn't seem to be the theme of the new commercial, which is more about painting Obama as a celebrity than about what McCain "can do for Americans here at home."

In an interview with CNN's John King following the event, McCain reportedly said that he agreed with his campaign manager's depiction of Obama's comments from yesterday. He told King that it appears that Obama had played the race card, and it's sad that the campaign has gotten to this point.

*** UPDATE *** Here's part of the transcript from CNN:
JOHN KING: Your campaign -- says he's playing a race card by saying that, by saying that you're trying to scare people, make them think this guy doesn't look like past presidents. Is that a fair criticism for Rick Davis to say that the Obama campaign is playing the race card?

MCCAIN:  It is. I'm sorry to say that it is. It's legitimate. And we don't -- there's no place in this campaign for that.  There's no place for it and we shouldn't be doing it.

KING:  They say that's not the case.

MCCAIN:  OK, John.

KING:  OK.  So I --

MCCAIN:  I'll let the American people judge.