From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones
ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- With just 30 days to go until Election Day, Obama told a crowd of some 28,000 people at a high school football stadium here that his rival was attacking him with smears because he had no ideas and was "running out of time."
The senator said the McCain campaign wanted to "turn the page" on the discussion about the economy and spend the last month of the campaign launching "Swiftboat-style attacks" on him.
His comments came as the McCain campaign continued to link him with '60s radical William Ayers. Yesterday, Sarah Palin accused Obama of palling around "with terrorists who target their own country."
Rather than responding directly to Palin, Obama tried to appear above what he has called petty distractions and promised to keep his focus on "the issues."
"Sen. McCain and his operatives are gambling that he can distract you with smears rather than talk to you about substance," he said. "They'd rather try to tear our campaign down than lift this country up. That's what you do when you're out of touch, out of ideas, and running out of time."
Obama, who is trying to persuade voters that his economic policies and other proposals will do more to help them than will McCain's, said he would keep talking about the economy, health care, education, and energy -- and that he would fight for "the hardworking families who aren't getting a fair shake in this economy."
He continued, sprinkling in a few folksy turns of phrase that are among his stump favorites. "We're not going to let John McCain distract us. We're not gonna let him hoodwink ya, or bamboozle ya. We're not gonna let him run the okeydoke on ya," he said to a chorus of "No's!" "The American people are too smart for that. They want to move this country forward and that's why I'm running for president."
McCain campaign Spokesman Tucker Bounds replied in a statement that the campaign was "discussing in precise and truthful terms Barack Obama's relationship with William Ayers, an unrepentant co-founder of 'The Weather Underground,' which was a domestic terrorist organization that bombed American targets."
"The last four weeks of this election will be about whether the American people are willing to turn our economy and national security over to Barack Obama, a man with little record, questionable judgment, and ties to radical figures like unrepentant domestic terrorist William Ayers," Bounds' statement went on. "Americans need to ask themselves if they've ever befriended an unrepentant terrorist, or had a convicted felon help them buy their house -- because those aren't smears, those are true facts about Barack Obama."
While Obama himself has not directly addressed the Ayers association on the stump in recent days, his campaign has said the two men were not close and that the senator had denounced Ayers' criminal acts.
Obama planned to spend the rest of the day preparing for Tuesday's debate in Nashville with advisers David Axelrod, Robert Gibbs, Anita Dunn, and Greg Craig.
In a common pre-debate practice used by both campaigns, the Obama camp has already begun downplaying expectations for the pair's second match-up, arguing town halls are McCain's "signature event' and saying they expect the Arizona senator to be at the top of his game.