ELKHART, Ind. (AP) - Barack Obama taunted Republican presidential rival John McCain on Wednesday for first ridiculing him for advising voters to keep tires inflated and then later acknowledging that the practice saves gasoline.
"It will be interesting to watch this debate between John McCain and John McCain," Obama said as he campaigned in Indiana with Sen. Evan Bayh, widely considered a top-tier candidate for running mate.
Discussing the air-pressure issue during an appearance Tuesday night, McCain said he wasn't opposed to Obama's suggestion. "And could I mention that Senator Obama a couple of days ago said that we ought to all inflate our tires, and I don't disagree with that. The American Automobile Association strongly recommends it, but I also don't think that that's a way to become energy independent."
Obama had noted that keeping tires inflated and cars tuned was endorsed by both NASCAR and AAA and should be part of any comprehensive plan to reduce reliance on imported oil.
In mocking Obama, McCain told a motorcycle rally in Sturgis, S.D.: "My opponent doesn't want to drill, he doesn't want nuclear power, he wants you to inflate your tires." The Republican National Committee widely distributed tire pressure gauges labeled "Obama energy plan" and suggested that was the Illinois senator's only idea for reducing oil imports, although both candidates have offered multifaceted energy proposals.
On Wednesday, McCain criticized Obama for not fully embracing nuclear power as part of a comprehensive energy solution. "He's out of touch," McCain said while campaigning in Ohio.
Obama's joint appearance with Bayh led to considerable speculation that Obama might announce a decision about his choice for vice president. But it was not to be.
Bayh said Obama would bring "a breath of fresh air" to the nation's capital. He said McCain "is not a bad man," but that McCain had some bad policies.
Bayh opened his introduction of Obama by saying he had some good news. "In five short months, the Bush administration will be done," Bayh said. A McCain victory, he said, would mean "four more years of what we've had."
Bayh, a former two-term governor and son of former Sen. Birch Bayh, is a former supporter of Hillary Rodham Clinton, has executive experience and sits on the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees. Furthermore, Democrats view Indiana-which has not voted for a Democrat for president since 1964-as competitive this year.
Later, the two made a campaign stop at Schoop's diner in Portage, Ind., where both shook hands. Obama ordered four cheeseburgers to go "with the works" and brushed aside questions on whether he might select Bayh as his running mate.
"We're in Indiana, we're campaigning with the most popular politician in Indiana," Obama said. Bayh, asked by a local reporter about the vice presidential speculation, said tersely, "Don't get me in trouble.
Obama campaigned in Indiana as his campaign released a new television ad that seeks to link McCain to President Bush and questions whether McCain is the political maverick he claims to be. It shows McCain acknowledging that he agrees with Bush on most issues.
The ad also criticizes McCain on three economic issues of concern to middle-class voters: tax breaks for the wealthy, money for oil companies, and tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas. The ad ends with a smiling McCain and Bush side by side.
McCain's campaign released an ad Tuesday suggesting that McCain differs from Bush and the GOP on important issues-without mentioning Bush by name.
In his appearance here, Obama also questioned McCain's claim to being a maverick.
While the Arizona senator has broken with his party on many issues in the past, he "reversed himself on position after position" to secure his party's nomination, Obama asserted.
"That doesn't meet my definition of a maverick."