Author`s name Alex Naumov

Obama says he admired McCain in 2000

Barack Obama at a campaign rally at Western Gateway Park in Des Moines Friday

Barack Obama says he admired John McCain, the 2000 version. These days? Not so much.

Hours after McCain released an ad citing past praise from Obama, the Democratic nominee said Friday he respected the unsuccessful 2000 primary campaign McCain waged against then-Gov. George W. Bush. Obama noted the Arizona senator's stand then against negative political attacks.

"I admired him for it," Obama told a crowd of 25,000 in Des Moines.

"He said, 'I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land.' Those words were spoken eight years ago by my opponent John McCain," Obama said.

"But the high road didn't lead him to the White House then, so this time he decided to take a different route," which Obama assailed as "slash-and-burn, say-anything, do-anything politics."

In the Republican's ad titled "Obama Praising McCain," Team McCain highlights Obama's past praise for the GOP nominee's stance on global climate change. In another new ad titled "Freedom," McCain reminds voters about his military service and how it shaped him, reports.

As the presidential campaign entered its final weekend, Barack Obama returned to Iowa, the state one adviser described as "hallowed ground" because of the role it played in launching his candidacy, while John McCain spent his second straight day in Ohio, a state he almost certainly must win to reach the White House.

"What you started right here in Iowa has swept the nation," Obama told 25,000 people at a downtown Des Moines rally that contrasted sharply with the gatherings in backyards and school gymnasiums during the long months before he won the January caucuses.

His campaign signaled its growing confidence by beginning TV ads in McCain's home state of Arizona, as well as in Georgia and North Dakota, all places that until recently, McCain was expected to win easily. Obama continues to campaign exclusively in states won by President Bush in 2004.

But McCain said he was optimistic as he prepared for a final blitz that will include stops in seven states Monday. "The pundits, my friends, have written us off, as they've done before," he told a crowd in Hanoverton. "But we're closing, my friends, and we're going to win Ohio."

McCain strategists contend that Obama's lead is narrowing and predicted a historic upset. Political director Mike DuHaime said McCain forces had made 150 percent more phone calls and door knocks this week than the Bush campaign made during the same stretch four years ago. The goal is 17 million more contacts with voters before polls close, reports.