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A battle of accused political 'flip-flops'

  • Story Highlights
  • Obama, McCain surrogates talk "flip-flopping" on Sunday talk shows
  • McCain supporter says Obama is using "double speak" on public funds
  • Rep. Wexler, an Obama supporter, insisted, "I don't think it's a major reversal"
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From Josh Levs
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Days after both men reversed course on major issues, the presidential campaigns of Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain spent much of Sunday's talk-show circuit working to ensure accusations of "flip-flopping" don't stick.

The campaigns of Sen. Barack Obama and John McCain traded barbs Sunday on changing policy positions.

The campaigns of Sen. Barack Obama and John McCain traded barbs Sunday on changing policy positions.

Both sides tried to go on offense, with the Obama camp accusing McCain of "yet another flip-flop" on the issue of oil drilling and the McCain camp saying Obama broke his word on the issue of campaign financing.

McCain said this week that he now supports lifting a federal ban on off-shore drilling that he once supported.

"The stakes are high for our citizens and for our economy," McCain, the presumed Republican nominee for president, said Tuesday at a press conference in Houston, Texas.

Former Sen. Tom Daschle, Obama's campaign co-chairman, said "we're surprised at yet another flip-flop on the part of John McCain here."

But McCain's economic adviser Carly Fiorina, on CBS' "Face the Nation," argued that "a good leader is influenced by the facts on the ground."

She added, "We've never before faced a situation where the price of a barrel of oil has doubled in the last 12 months. So what John McCain has said is that we now need to take control of our own energy future." Video Watch more on the off-shore drilling debate »

When McCain announced his decision on Tuesday, he said off-shore oil drilling could be part of a plan "in the short term in resolving our energy crisis."

But many analysts argue any significant oil production gain would be years away.

On the issue of campaign financing, Obama announced on Thursday that he would not take public financing for the general election.

Obama told supporters in an e-mail message he would not accept about $85 million in public funds when he becomes the Democratic presidential nominee.

In the e-mail, Obama said the public campaign financing system allowed "special interests [to] drown out the voices of the American people" and asked his supporters to "declare our independence from a broken system."

Obama added that McCain would not stop "smears and attacks" from outside groups that can spend unlimited money.

But the presumptive Democratic nominee, had long spoken in support of public financing, and when asked last year on a questionnaire whether he would accept public financing if his GOP competitor did, he answered "yes."

He also previously said he would try to reach an agreement with his Republican counterpart to preserve a publicly financed election. McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, is accepting public funding. Video Watch more political "flip-flops" »

Speaking on CNN's "Late Edition," Rep. Eric Cantor, a McCain supporter, complained Sunday that Obama "has backtracked and now is engaging in double-speak, in terms of his position on public financing."

"He has demonstrated this week that he is just the same as all the rest that he's been criticizing," said Cantor, a Virginia Republican.Video Watch Obama defend his financing position »

But Rep. Robert Wexler, a Florida Democrat and Obama supporter, insisted, "I don't think it's a major reversal."

"As president, he will continue to work to change the law so that it's actually doable, so that neither party is disenfranchised or put at a disadvantage," Wexler said. Video Watch Wexler defend Obama »

But many Republicans and outside analysts said Obama found he could raise more money than public financing would allow him to spend.

Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, a former rival for the Democratic nomination, acknowledged Obama has "changed his position."

But, speaking to NBC's "Meet the Press," Biden argued that because Obama has so many contributors who gave less than $100 each, "the effect of campaign financing is in place."

Still, there is a "down side" to Obama's decision, Biden said. "In terms of undermining the public financing idea for everyone, it doesn't help." He added that if he were still in the race against Obama, "I'd probably be raising it" as an issue.


On "Fox News Sunday," Daschle argued that Obama "didn't break his word on this."

McCain's campaign co-chairman Tom Ridge fired back that Obama has "not only broken a fundamental reform of the political system, but he's also broken his word."

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