LAKEVILLE, Minn.-- Republican rage against Barack Obama claimed a new victim today: John McCain.
McCain was booed at a town-hall meeting here when he rebuked a man who said he was "scared…to bring a child up" under an Obama presidency. "I have to tell you he is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared of as president of the United States," McCain said to audible disapproval.
The man was one of nine who appealed to McCain to confront Obama more forcefully, several of them raising specific controversies dominating news, including Obama’s relationships with Bill Ayers and the group ACORN. McCain seized the microphone from the hands of a woman who called Obama "an Arab," and scolded her.
"He's a decent family man that I happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues," McCain said, to scant approval. In fact, the most rousing applause of the afternoon was saved not for McCain, but for a man who begged him to "fight" in next week’s debate.
"There's a difference between rhetoric and record, but you can still be respectful," McCain said to one questioner. "I will point out his record and I will do it with respect."
That was frequent refrain from McCain earlier in the year, but one rarely heard as his campaign has aggressively shifted its attention to questions about Obama’s character. For the first time, McCain attempted to distance himself from scattered reports of rally attendees making violent threats against Obama and calling him a "terrorist" and "bum."
"Ninety-nine and 44/100ths of every person who has come to my town-hall meetings has been respectful," McCain said.
At times, the appeals were so desperate for McCain to be tougher on Obama that he felt convinced to assure one voter that he cared as much about the election’s outcome as they did.
"Believe me, I am motivated," McCain said.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.