John McCain launched a fierce attack on his rival Barack Obama yesterday, accusing him of ties to a New York university professor sympathetic to terrorists.
As the campaign enters its final days, Mr McCain called for the Los Angeles Times to release a video of a dinner attended by Mr Obama and Rashid Khalidi, who Mr McCain said had ties to the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).
"We know that at that time the PLO was a terrorist organisation," he said on the talk show Larry King Live. "We should see the tape."
Mr Khalidi, a distinguished Middle Eastern expert at Columbia University, has in the past voiced sympathy for Palestinian causes, but has denied belonging to the PLO.
The video was made at a 2003 farewell dinner he gave when leaving the University of Chicago where Mr Obama was also a lecturer, but there is no evidence the two were friends.
"If it was a tape with me and Sarah Palin and some neo-Nazis ... you think that tape wouldn't be made public?" said Mr McCain.
Mr McCain also took aim at Mr Obama's internet fundraising, saying records were sketchy for who has contributed to his $600 million war chest. "There's hundreds of millions of dollars of undocumented credit cards," he said. "We don't know who those donors are."
Mr Obama fired back, accusing Mr McCain of deliberate distortions: "I don't know what's next. By the end of the week he'll be accusing me of being a secret communist because I shared my toys in kindergarten."
The exchanges appear to show Mr McCain has decided to "go negative" for what remains of the campaign, hoping to undermine the character of his rival.
But it may be a hard sell, with polls continuing to slide towards Mr Obama. Reuters reported a seven-point lead and CNN/Time gave the same lead to the Illinois senator in the battleground states of Ohio and Nevada.
More attacks are being launched against Mr Obama from the Christian Right, one of the core constituencies of the Republican Party.
Mailings from the Christian Anti Defamation Commission warn that an Obama victory would "change the course of history" and see Russian tanks overrunning eastern Europe, churches turned into homeless shelters and scouts compelled to take gay scout masters.
Meanwhile Sandra Schultz, a former Pennsylvania supreme court judge, has apologised for signing another mailing, this one to 75,000 Jewish voters, warning that an Obama victory will trigger a second Holocaust.
There were signs of confusion in the McCain camp when Joe Wurzelbacher, AKA "Joe the Plumber", decided against attending a rally in Defiance, Ohio, but did not tell the candidate.
"Joe's with us today," announced Mr McCain. "Joe, where are you? Where is Joe? Is Joe here with us today?" After listening to an adviser talking off camera, Mr McCain continued: "Joe, I thought you were here today. All right, well … you're all Joe the Plumber. So all of you stand up and say, I thank you."
Palin aims to remain national political figure even if Republicans lose
SARAH Palin, the Republican vice-presidential candidate, is looking toward her political future, even as her political present has yet to be decided.
In an interview with ABC News, the Alaska governor said she believed she and John McCain would win next Tuesday's election, but indicated she wouldn't disappear from the national political scene if they lost.
"Absolutely not," she said. "I think that, if I were to give up and wave a white flag of surrender against some of the political shots that we've taken, that… that would, bring this whole… I'm not doing this for naught."
It has been speculated that Ms Palin would look for a television career if the Republican presidential bid failed, but it seems she feels there will be a role for her as the party reforms itself following an electoral defeat. This will please the Christian right, but the other – and quieter – wing of the Republican party, the fiscal conservatives, who do not share many of the social beliefs of the religious grouping, will probably not welcome such news.