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Meanwhile, as Obama spent time vacationed in Hawaii, his campaign hit back last Thursday against the best-selling book “The Obama Nation.”

In the book — a twist on the word abomination — author Jerome Corsi argues that Obama is a dangerous, radical candidate and lists a compilation of all the innuendo and false rumors against Obama — that he was raised a Muslim, attended a radical, black church and secretly has a “black rage” hidden beneath the surface.

In fact, Obama is a Christian who attended Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.

The Obama campaign picked apart the book’s claims in a 40-page rebuttal titled “Unfit For Publication,” to be posted on the Obama campaign’s rumor-fighting Web site,, which argues that Corsi is a fringe bigot peddling rehashed lies.

Also last Thursday, the International Association of Fire Fighters endorsed Obama at their national convention in Las Vegas.

The Obama campaign also began airing an ad Monday on national cable and in all 50 states just as their candidate returns to campaigning.

Using time-lapse photography to show a house under construction, the 30-second ad also refers to Obama’s plans for ending tax breaks for companies shipping jobs overseas, helping those who create jobs domestically, and making energy independence “an urgent national priority.”

The economy, from jobs and taxes to the high price of gasoline, have risen to the top of voters’ concerns over the summer, eclipsing the war in Iraq as a campaign issue.

Meanwhile, in between three Colorado fundraisers, McCain attended an economic forum at the Aspen Institute, where he displayed the spontaneous tendency his aides have been largely successful in taming lately. He chastised Congress for going on recess “while people are paying $3.75 a gallon for gas.”

The audience of 800 began hooting and laughing, yelling out that gas is selling for nearly $5 a gallon in the Aspen area. McCain recovered with a well-received crack about plans to “soak the rich.”

McCain scheduled no public events last Friday, when he met with top aides, and only one last Saturday: a televised forum on faith, in California, where Obama appeared separately.

Campaign sources said McCain is likely to spend a few days this week huddled with advisers, possibly working on his vice presidential decision.

McCain’s campaign has recently limited his exposure to national reporters and even voters, devoting more time to events designed for TV cameras and less likely to show off the casual quips that have sometimes made him look unfocused.

From here on, “you’ll see a campaign that is better at staying on message,” said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close associate.

The strategy appeared to be paying off. A Pew Research poll released last Wednesday gave Obama a slight three-point advantage over McCain at 46-43 percent. The same poll showed Obama leading McCain by 8 percentage points in June, though by July his lead was 5 points, about the same as now.

Since June, McCain has solidified his support among whites, men, Republicans, white evangelicals and whites who haven’t completed college. The survey reported that McCain had his main gains on his leadership image.

McCain also won a round against Democrats last Thursday when the Federal Election Commission (FEC) rejected their contention that he violated campaign finance laws during the Republican primary.

Democrats had argued that McCain wrongly received loans based on his participation in public financing for the primaries but then later withdrew from the public finance system. When candidates receive public financing during a campaign, they are subject to strict spending limits and cannot raise outside funds.

But the FEC’s draft opinion rejected the Democrats’ complaint.

(Associated Press)