Melbourne: US elections have shifted back to the economy as campaign teams for Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are trading barbs.
Romney has been forced to denounce plans by a conservative campaign group to mount a racially-charged attack on Obama to help the Republicans win the US Presidential Election.
Denouncing Obama as a “metrosexual black Abe Lincoln”, the group planned to “inflame opinion” by resurrecting a four-year-old controversy surrounding his former pastor, Rev Jeremiah Wright.
In a leaked 54-page strategy dossier, “The Defeat of Barack Hussein Obama”, it proposed a USD 10-million advertising campaign on Rev Wright to coincide with September’s Democratic party convention.
“The world is about to see Jeremiah Wright and understand his influence,” the Age quoted it as saying.
Footage released in 2008 showed Rev Wright telling his congregation “Not God bless America - God damn America”.
Amid fury from the President’s allies, Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, said yesterday (Thursday) that he “repudiated” efforts “to promote an ad strategy of the nature they’ve described”. He added that he wanted to focus his campaign on the economy.
An Obama spokesman accused him of “reacting tepidly” to “a moment that required moral leadership”, describing the plan as “a hate-filled, divisive campaign of character assassination”.
The group, Character Matters, pledged to reverse Republican reluctance in 2008 to use Rev Wright against Obama.
“Our plan is to do exactly what John McCain would not let us do,” it said.
Referring to an advertisement on Rev Wright apparently prepared for McCain’s campaign but eventually unused, it said “If the nation had seen that ad, they’d never have elected Barack Obama”.
The group is one of a new crop of political action committees, known as “Super PACs”, and they are free to spend unlimited corporate funds on campaigning. It is led by Joe Ricketts, a 70-year-old billionaire whose family owns the Chicago Cubs baseball team.
A spokesman for Ricketts said that the proposal was “only a suggestion for a direction to take” drawn up by political consultants and would not be implemented.
“Not only was this plan merely a proposal but it reflects an approach to politics that Mr Ricketts rejects, and it was never a plan to be accepted but only a suggestion for a direction to take,” the spokesman said.
The disclosure of its dossier by The New York Times reopened the row over the so-called “black liberation theology” of Rev Wright, from which Obama was forced to distance himself in 2008.
It prompted the then-Senator to deliver an acclaimed speech on race in Philadelphia in March that year, which was credited with neutralising the issue and bolstering his campaign for the White House.