US Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said on Saturday that Republican rival John McCain's campaign has been cynical, not racist, in trying to raise fears about his candidacy.
Obama said McCain's campaign team was "very good at negative campaigning" and was using his relative inexperience, atypical biography as well as his race to try to stir up doubts about him.
McCain's campaign aired an ad this week charging Obama played "the race card" in claiming McCain was trying to scare voters about his appearance. Obama, the son of a black Kenyan father and white Kansas mother, would be the first black US president.
"In no way do I think that John McCain's campaign is being racist, I think they're being cynical," the Illinois senator told reporters during a campaign swing through Florida. "I think they want to distract people from talking about real issues."
McCain, an Arizona senator, also mocked Obama in two advertisements this week, one linking him to vapid Hollywood celebrities like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, and another lampooning him as an overconfident and Messiah-like candidate known as "the One."
Obama said race was just one of the factors the McCain campaign was using to stir up fears about him.
"I don't come out of central casting. I'm young. I'm new to the national scene. My name is Barack Obama. I do not have the typical biography of a presidential candidate," he said.
"What that means is that I'm sort of unfamiliar and people are still trying to get a fix on who I am, where I come from," he said. "What has been an approach of the McCain campaign is to say 'he's risky.'"
He said McCain's campaign had been taken over by former associates of Karl Rove, President George W. Bush's former political adviser, and he was clearly planning a negative campaign approach.
"They are very good at negative campaigns. They are not so good at governing," he said of McCain's team. "We have seen this movie before."