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Obama accuses Republicans of 'swift boat politics'

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Sen. John McCain's camp says Sen. Barack Obama using "schoolyard insults"
  • Obama slams Republicans for making people "sick and tired of politics"
  • McCain campaign critical of Obama's line about "lipstick on a pig"
  • Obama launches "Alaska Mythbusters"; McCain starts "Palin Truth Squad"
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(CNN) -- Sen. Barack Obama on Wednesday accused Sen. John McCain's campaign of engaging in "lies" and "swift boat politics" in regard to his comment about "lipstick on a pig."

"Spare me the phony outrage. Spare me the phony talk about change," Obama said at the start of an education event in Norfolk, Virginia.

"We have real problems in this country right now. The American people are looking to us for answers, not distractions, not diversions, not manipulations. They want real answers to the real problems we are facing.

"I don't care what they say about me. But I love this country too much to let them take over another election with lies and phony outrage and swift boat politics. Enough is enough," he said, referring to how Swift Boat Veterans for Truth launched attacks against Sen. John Kerry in the 2004 presidential race.

Obama said the McCain campaign was doing the type of thing that makes people "sick and tired of politics." Video Watch Obama dismiss "the latest made-up controversy" »

Responding to Obama's comments, McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said, "Barack Obama can't campaign with schoolyard insults and then try to claim outrage at the tone of the campaign.

"His talk of new politics is as empty as his campaign trail promises, and his record of bucking his party and reaching across the aisle simply doesn't exist."

Obama's heated response came after the McCain campaign said the Democrat owes the GOP vice presidential nominee, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, an apology for invoking an adage on the campaign trail Tuesday: "That's not change," Obama said, saying McCain's policy views were similar to President Bush's. "That's just calling something the same thing something different. You know you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig."

McCain's campaign said Obama's remarks were offensive and a slap at Palin -- despite the fact that the senator from Arizona used the phrase last year to describe a policy proposal of Sen. Hillary Clinton's. Video Watch how tensions are rising on the campaign trail »

Within minutes, the McCain campaign announced a conference call focusing on the remark, which it said was a deliberate reference to Palin's line: "You know the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick." Read more about the "lipstick" controversy

Palin used the line in the opening remarks of her acceptance speech at last week's GOP convention, and she frequently uses it on the campaign trail.

Earlier Wednesday, Obama's campaign announced it was launching "Alaska Mythbusters," a group of Alaskans that the campaign says will "set the record straight" about Palin.

Former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles and Bob Weinstein, mayor of the city that would have been home to the "Bridge to Nowhere," planned to discuss Palin's record in a conference call later Wednesday.

Obama's group comes the day after McCain deployed the "Palin Truth Squad" to fight future attacks on his vice presidential nominee.

It was launched as The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Palin had billed the state a per diem for 312 days she spent at home and requested reimbursement for plane rides and hotel rooms for her husband and children.

The newspaper noted that officials said the claims were justified under existing state regulations. The McCain campaign said that Palin had reduced yearly travel expenses by roughly 80 percent of the amount spent by her predecessor, former Gov. Frank Murkowski.

Meanwhile, after Obama made his remarks criticizing Republicans, he moved on to discussing his plan for the education system. At the Virginia event, Obama repeated proposals he laid out Tuesday, which included doubling funding for charter schools and investing in early-childhood education. Read more about Obama's plan for public education

Obama has put a lot of emphasis on Virginia, a Republican stronghold he hopes to turn blue.

Obama kicked off his general election campaign in Virginia in June.

Virginia hasn't voted for a Democrat since President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, but for more than a year, Obama's campaign has cited the state's 13 electoral votes as part of its argument that he can reshuffle the electoral map this fall.

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine was long considered one of Obama's top vice presidential contenders, and the state played a big role at the Democratic National Convention last month, with Kaine's predecessor, Mark Warner, delivering the keynote address.

Following his Virginia event, Obama was set to tape an appearance for the "Late Show With David Letterman" and then head to Washington to speak before the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Gala.

Obama's running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, was in New Hampshire for a town hall meeting. New Hampshire is also a tossup state, with four electoral votes at stake.

On the Republican side McCain and Palin were in Fairfax, Virginia, for a rally.

The campaign moved the rally from a northern Virginia high school to a nearby park following complaints from some officials, who said that holding a partisan event on school grounds violated local school board policy.

However, McCain's campaign said Wednesday that the main reason for moving the event was to accommodate the demand for tickets.

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McCain's rallies over the last week with Palin have drawn large crowds for the Republican nominee.

Wednesday's event is McCain's first in Virginia since securing the GOP nomination.

CNN's Alexander Mooney contributed to this report.

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