By Shailagh Murray, Juliet Eilperin and Robert Barnes
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, November 3, 2008; Page A01
The waning hours of the longest presidential campaign in history elicited a fresh round of stinging attacks from Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain and their supporters on Sunday, a departure from the positive messages that candidates normally revert to before an election.
The two candidates kept swinging at each other as their campaigns focused on a handful of states that will determine the election. Obama cut an ad that used Vice President Cheney‘s endorsement of McCain to reinforce his central argument that his rival represents a third term of the unpopular Bush administration.
Republicans in Pennsylvania brought back the controversial comments of Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., despite McCain’s admonition that he should not be used as a political weapon, and the campaign unleashed robo-calls that employed the withering dismissal that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton made of Obama’s experience when the two were competing against each other in the Democratic primaries.
McCain adviser Charlie Black said his candidate would have preferred that the Pennsylvania GOP not air the ad using Wright’s controversial anti-American statements. But “as McCain said back in the spring, he can’t be the referee of every ad,” Black said.
Ending a campaign on a positive note, said Republican strategist Scott Reed, “may be part of the old way, but this is unlike any campaign we’ve ever seen. There is such a small slice of undecided out there, I think both sides are going to finish the campaign really going after them.”
Those voters, according to polls, represent McCain’s last, best hope. But his campaign manager, Rick Davis, made the rounds of the talk shows to forcefully rebut pollsters and pundits uniformly predicting an Obama victory. “I think what we’re in for is a slam-bang finish,” Davis said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I mean, it’s going to be wild. . . . John McCain may be the greatest closer politician of all time.”