In a debate in 2006 on ethics in the Senate, which Mr. McCain regarded as a signature issue, he dressed down Mr. Obama and accused the freshman senator of disingenuousness. Mr. Obama called Mr. McCain cranky.
In public, that dispute melted away when the two cocked their fists at each other and hugged for a mutually beneficial photo opportunity. Their rapport has not advanced, and the two have a distant relationship.The two men are very different. Mr. McCain, 71, is a veteran of political and military battles. Mr. Obama, 46, is community organizer turned Ivy League graduate. Mr. McCain has told friends and associates that he views Mr. Obama as something of an upstart whose charmed political life delivered him to the same place Mr. McCain's decades of public and military service did.
And, associates said, Mr. McCain had always hoped to take on Mrs. Clinton.
UPDATE II: Politico's Jonathan Martin reports: McCain campaign manager Rick Davis "today sent an unmistakable message to Barack Obama over the Illinois Democrat's effort to stoke the obvious age contrast between himself and the 71-year-old McCain: Bring it on.:
"It's nice of him to constantly point out how nice he thinks of John McCain and his half-century of service to our country," Davis said sardonically. "I don't think he can get that ["half-century" line] out enough."
"I actually think half a century of service to our country is a good thing. If you would like to talk about the day John McCain went into the Naval Academy and pledged his loyalty to our country and everything that's happened since then, let's prosecute that. We love those kinds of discussions."
Davis, speaking at a Washington luncheon with reporters, also extended the criticism leveled by his candidate last night, suggesting that the 46-year-old Obama was offering vague rhetoric to mask liberal views.
"I think it's easy to say, 'let's have hope,'" Davis said. "But hope has to come into some form.
And Obama responded to to McCain, telling a crowd in Wisconsin that the GOP senator had "traded principles for his party's nomination."
Obama argued McCain has acted like President George W. Bush on the economy and on the Iraq war.
"George Bush may not be on the ballot this fall, but his tax cut and his economic policies are... that is a debate that I'm happy to have, because the American people know that Bush's policies have not worked for ordinary Americans," Obama said.
Obama said he was surprised by McCain's recent criticism of his economic policy - direct criticisms McCain started in the last few days.
"Economics is not his strong suit," Obama said with a smile, "he said 'I don't understand economics very well', and after he said that, it shows."
Obama told the audience that he believes McCain's economic policies would be "more of the same" of Bush tax policies - and argued McCain's position has undergone a transformation since running for president.
UPDATE: John McCain again attacked Obama on Wednesday.
As he did Tuesday night, McCain focused much of his criticism on Obama, Tuesday's winner on the Democratic side.
"I respect him and the campaign that he has run, but there's going to come a time when we have to get into specifics," McCain told reporters Wednesday on Capitol Hill. "I've not observed every speech he's given, obviously, but they are singularly lacking in specifics."
In his victory speech after the Potomac primaries, John McCain took several thinly veiled shots at Barack Obama, claiming that offering "only rhetoric" to advance the country "is not the promise of hope. It is a platitute."
Hope, my friends, is a powerful thing. I can attest to that better than many, for I have seen men's hopes tested in hard and cruel ways that few will ever experience. And I stood astonished at the resilience of their hope in the darkest of hours because it did not reside in an exaggerated belief in their individual strength, but in the support of their comrades, and their faith in their country. My hope for our country resides in my faith in the American character, the character which proudly defends the right to think and do for ourselves, but perceives self-interest in accord with a kinship of ideals, which, when called upon, Americans will defend with their very lives.
To encourage a country with only rhetoric rather than sound and proven ideas that trust in the strength and courage of free people is not a promise of hope. It is a platitude.
When I was a young man, I thought glory was the highest ambition, and that all glory was self-glory. My parents tried to teach me otherwise, as did the Naval Academy. But I didn't understand the lesson until later in life, when I confronted challenges I never expected to face.
McCain ended the salvo by ripping off one of Obama's signature lines:
As I have done my entire career, I will make my case to every American who will listen. I will not confine myself to the comfort of speaking only to those who agree with me. I will make my case to all the people. I will listen to those who disagree. I will attempt to persuade them. I will debate. And I will learn from them. But I will fight every moment of every day for what I believe is right for t his country, and I will not yield.
And, my friends, I promise you, I am fired up and ready to go.
Meanwhile, TPM's Greg Sargent highlights Obama's speech tonight drawing increasingly clear contrasts with McCain:
When I am the nominee, I will offer a clear choice. John McCain won't be able to say that I ever supported this war in Iraq, because I opposed it from the beginning. Senator McCain said the other day that we might be mired for a hundred years in Iraq, which is reason enough to not give him four years in the White House.
If we had chosen a different path, the right path, we could have finished the job in Afghanistan, and put more resources into the fight against bin Laden; and instead of spending hundreds of billions of dollars in Baghdad, we could have put that money into our schools and hospitals, our road and bridges - and that's what the American people need us to do right now.
And I admired Senator McCain when he stood up and said that it offended his "conscience" to support the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy in a time of war; that he couldn't support a tax cut where "so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate." But somewhere along the road to the Republican nomination, the Straight Talk Express lost its wheels, because now he's all for them.
Well I'm not. We can't keep spending money that we don't have in a war that we shouldn't have fought. We can't keep mortgaging our children's future on a mountain of debt. We can't keep driving a wider and wider gap between the few who are rich and the rest who struggle to keep pace. It's time to turn the page.