John McCain’s new message about running a respectful campaign is not filtering out to the troops. Yesterday, I visited the field operations of both campaigns in Virginia, as part of a longer story that I am doing for dead-tree TIME. I arrived at McCain’s new field office in Gainesville just in time to witness this scene, which I wrote about in a dispatch for TIME.com:
With so much at stake, and time running short, [Virginia Republican Party Chairman Jeff] Frederick did not feel he had the luxury of subtlety. He climbed atop a folding chair to give 30 campaign volunteers who were about to go canvassing door to door their talking points — for instance, the connection between Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden: “Both have friends that bombed the Pentagon,” he said. “That is scary.” It is also not exactly true — though that distorted reference to Obama’s controversial association with William Ayers, a former 60s radical, was enough to get the volunteers stoked. “And he won’t salute the flag,” one woman added, repeating another myth about Obama. She was quickly topped by a man who called out, “We don’t even know where Senator Obama was really born.” Actually, we do; it’s Hawaii.