North Carolina's Republican Party is circulating a mailer that tries to link Democrat Barack Obama to 1960s radical William Ayers.
The advertisement includes several photos of Ayers, including his mug shot. It provides a boilerplate of Ayers' past radical activities and declares that he and Obama are friends. The mailer says Obama is “not who you think he is.”
“This is the story of William Ayers … Terrorist. Radical. Friend of Obama,” the ad says.
Obama has denounced Ayers' violent past and has said Ayers is not and has never been involved in the campaign.
State GOP spokesman Brent Woodcox said the Obama-Ayers connection is a legitimate issue for discussion.
“I don't think it's an exaggeration to say the next president needs to be an exceptional judge of character,” he said.
Obama spokesman Paul Cox said the mailer goes hand-in-hand with Republican John McCain's campaign of automated telephone calls in several states on the same subject.
“It's scummy,” Cox said. “North Carolina deserves much better.”
Ayers was a founder of the Weather Underground, a group that claimed responsibility for a series of nonfatal bombings at the Pentagon and the Capitol to protest U.S. foreign policies during the Vietnam War era. He is now a college professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago, Obama's hometown.
Republicans generally and McCain's campaign have accused Obama of “palling around with terrorists,” citing, among other things, a 1995 meet-the-candidate coffee Ayers hosted at his home for Obama as he launched his political career by running for state Senate.
The two also served together on a Chicago school reform group and a charity board, and they live in the same neighborhood.
But there is no evidence they ever were close friends.
Obama has said he was 8 when Ayers “engaged in despicable acts with a radical domestic group.”
Word of the mailer came two weeks before Election Day, with polls nationally and in some targeted states – including North Carolina – showing McCain trailing Obama. The Democrat has invested a lot of time and money in hopes of putting the state in his column on Nov. 4.
Before the N.C. primary, the GOP aired an ad showing Obama with his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and a clip of Wright's anti-U.S. comments. The ad declared Obama “too extreme for North Carolina.”
McCain condemned that spot and publicly asked state party leaders to take it off the air. They demurred, saying the local Republican headquarters had decided to use it.