WASHINGTON - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama broadly accused his Republican rivals of dishonesty as he battled to reclaim ownership of his message of change and stem a post-convention boost in the polls for his opponent John McCain.
McCain has radically shifted tactics by putting less emphasis on claims to superior experience while moving in on Obama's promise to shake up the way Washington does business.
With his choice of little-known Alaska governor Sarah Palin as running mate, McCain signalled he had decided he could not catch Obama by hammering on the Democrat's thin resume on the national stage.
With national polls finding the Democratic presidential nominee trailing or in a dead heat with McCain, Obama began the campaign's final eight-week push by criticising McCain's popular running mate as much as the Arizona senator himself.
He told supporters in Flint, Michigan, that Palin had an interesting biography - "Mother, governor, moose shooter. That's cool" - but the election should be about who can change people's lives for the better.
Obama said that won't come from a Republican ticket that almost always supports the same positions as President George Bush even though they say they will bring reform.
Putting their new strategy to work in swing state Missouri on Monday, McCain and Palin criticised Obama for the amount of money he has requested for his home state, even though Alaska under Palin's leadership has asked Washington for 10 times more money per citizen for pet projects.
McCain and Palin accused Obama of requesting nearly $1 billion in earmarks - special projects that lawmakers try to get for their districts and constituents - for Illinois.
The new line of attack came after Obama made his first direct criticism of Palin over the weekend, using the topic of earmarks.
"Just the other day our opponent brought up earmarks - and frankly I was surprised that he would even raise the subject at all," Palin said.
"I thought he wouldn't want to go there."- Sapa-AP