McCain Pulls Negative Ads in South Carolina

By Jerry Miller | July 7, 2008 | 8:25 PM EDT

( - Arizona Senator John McCain has decided to pull so called negative ads in South Carolina, but Texas Governor George Bush has refused to do the same. The move was announced during a campaign-fundraising swing through New York and New Jersey. The decision may have stemmed, in part, from polls, which show the negative spots tarnishing McCain's image.

McCain campaign staff are worried that negative ads might turn off independents and Democrats, who will be able to vote in next Saturday's South Carolina Primary, much as they did in New Hampshire, where McCain trounced Bush by 19 points.

"We will put up positive ads. We will run no attack response, or any other kind of negative advertising for the rest of the campaign," McCain said. "I'd like to encourage Governor Bush to do the same thing. I hope he will recognize the damage this kind of thing does to the electorate."

While campaigning in Charleston, SC, Bush characterized McCain's move as "an old Washington trick," and an example of "a bait and switch trick."

"He runs ads for 18 days, defining me as something I'm not and then, all of a sudden, says, 'OK let's all quit. I'm going to make sure that people understand exactly what I believe and where I stand," Bush insisted.

Bush has been especially annoyed at a spot in which he was compared to President Clinton. The ad, which featured McCain and Bush shaking hands in New Hampshire, each promising not to run negative ads, challenged the governor's integrity, and compared him to Clinton, with a tag line that read, "Do we really want another politician in the White House we can't trust."

Bush responded to that assertion with an ad of his own. "Politics is tough, but when John McCain compared me to Bill Clinton and said I was untrustworthy, that's over the line. Disagree with me, fine, but do not challenge my integrity."

McCain has replaced that spot with one featuring an ad detailing his heroism in Viet Nam, where he spent five years as a prisoner of war.

Bush campaign spokesman Ari Fleischer, said he believes McCain has changed his pitch because, "It's entirely possible Sen. McCain's ads boomeranged on him."

Asked about his own ads, which characterize McCain as someone whose campaign is "crawling with lobbyists," Bush insisted those spots were not negative. "My ads are to make sure that I clarify exactly who I am and what I believe."

Bush also attacked McCain as a person who "says one things and does another," especially when it comes to raising campaign funds from special interest groups. Referring to a Thursday night, Washington, DC fund-raiser, where McCain reportedly realized $250,000 from a lobbyist heavy crowd, Bush said, "I can just hear him now. Give'em hell and pass the hors d'oeuvres."