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Palin: Obama put 'ambition above country'

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  • NEW: A CNN poll of polls calculated Friday has Obama leading McCain by 7 points
  • NEW: Gov. Palin announces bus tour through West Virginia on Sunday
  • Palin accuses Sen. Obama of interfering with U.S. negotiations with Iraq
  • Obama's economic plan would increase government loans to small businesses
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JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri (CNN) -- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on Friday said Sen. Barack Obama put "ambition above country" after a newspaper reported that Obama may have tried to influence Iraqi politicians negotiating with the United States.

The Washington Times, a conservative newspaper, reported Friday that Obama told Iraqi leaders in Baghdad in June that an agreement between the United States and the leaders to allow U.S. troops to stay in the country after 2008 should not go into effect unless it had congressional approval.

The conversation occurred two weeks after Obama secured the Democratic nomination for president, the newspaper reported.

It was widely reported at the time that Obama had conversations with the Iraqi leadership and expressed similar views publicly at news conferences.

But the campaign of Obama's Republican rival, Sen. John McCain, argued that Obama's call interfered with U.S. efforts to reach a "status of forces agreement" with the Iraqi government. The U.S. and Iraq have yet to announce a final agreement despite numerous reports that one was near.

During a fundraiser in Madeira, Ohio, Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee, said Obama tried to influence the negotiations "in a way that would set back America's cause there, while advancing his campaign here."

"If this is true ... it is a stunning example of putting ambition above country," Palin said. "To put political ambitions in front of doing what's right for our troops is breathtaking, and it is unacceptable."

Palin said she was "frustrated" that the report did not come out until a little more than three weeks before the election.

"I pray to God that people have enough time to let this register with them and start again, connecting the dots, and understand the contrast between the tickets," she said.

On Friday, the McCain campaign also launched a television ad accusing Obama of showing bad judgment when he worked with former radical Bill Ayers.

In the ad, titled "Ambition," the narrator says "blind ambition" led Obama to work with Ayers and then later lie about his association with the former member of the Weather Underground, a group formed in 1960's to protest the Vietnam War. The group was accused of bombings of federal buildings, including the U.S. Capitol and the Pentagon. Video Watch the McCain ad 'Ambition' »

Ayers, 63, is now a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Obama worked with Ayers on a two foundation boards in the mid-1990s, including one dedicated to education reform, and Ayers also hosted a coffee in which Obama was introduced to a group of political activists in Chicago.

The Obama campaign has repeatedly said that the Illinois Democrat repudiates the Weather Underground's activities. A CNN review of the foundation work found no inappropriate activity in the volunteer work that Obama and Ayers did, and many news organizations -- including The New York Times and The Washington Post -- have found that the association between the two men was not close.

The McCain ad also accuses congressional "liberals" of showing bad judgment when they pushed for "risky" sub-prime loans and fought against more regulation. Video Watch McCain backers vent their anger at the GOP ticket »

Palin launched the offensive last weekend when she accused Obama of "palling around with terrorists who would target their own country." Fact Check: Did Obama 'pal around with terrorists'?

Obama's campaign retaliated with a 13-minute online "documentary" that detailed McCain's involvement with the so-called "Keating Five" and the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s.

On Friday, in a fundraiser in Cleveland, Ohio, Palin defended what many perceive as the negative tone the McCain-Palin campaign has taken in recent days.

"It's not negative, its not mean-spirited to be out there and bringing to light the other candidate's record and the other candidate's associations, which are very, very, very troubling for America," Palin said. "And it's not negative to talk about those things, and to also ask that the media do its job too in asking the questions of Barack Obama, especially with those associations, because it leads to more questions, really, about judgment and about truthfulness."

But earlier Friday, Obama -- saying "it's easy to rile up a crowd by stoking anger and division" -- chided the McCain campaign for running "misleading ads" and pursuing "the politics of anything goes." Video Watch Obama blast McCain's tactics »

"The times are too serious. The challenges are too great. ... Now, more than ever, it is time to put country ahead of politics," Obama said.

Palin's charge comes on the same day Obama kept his focus on the economy. During a "jobs tour" across Ohio, he unveiled a plan to help rescue small-business owners struggling to stay afloat in the sinking economy.

Obama called for a program of loans for small businesses made through either the federal Small Business Administration's Disaster Loan Program or by private lenders. The private loans also would be guaranteed by the SBA, Obama said.

The plan also would eliminate all capital gains taxes for small businesses and start-ups, Obama said during a rally in Chillicothe, Ohio.

McCain on Friday also announced a new economic initiative during a rally in La Crosse, Wisconsin. The Republican presidential nominee called for the suspension of rules that force Americans who have reached the age of 70 to sell stock from their 401(k) and individual retirement accounts.

The stock market has suffered dramatic losses in recent weeks. McCain said the rules need to be suspended "to spare investors from being forced to sell their stocks at just the time when the market is hurting the most."

The candidates' economic proposals come as the exchanges between their campaigns are heating up with just 25 days until Election Day.

The dropping stock market and the financial crisis have put economic worries at the forefront of voters' minds, leading to an advantage for Obama.

The Democratic candidate has opened leads in many battleground states as well as made inroads in states that Republicans have repeatedly won in previous presidential elections, including Virginia, North Carolina and Missouri.

A new CNN poll of polls, which averages the results of three national polls taken October 7-9, shows that Obama has a seven-point lead over McCain, 49 percent to 42 percent.

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In what may be another signal that the troubled economy is forcing the McCain's campaign to play electoral map defense, Palin has scheduled a bus tour for Sunday through West Virginia, a state that's been leaning red throughout this presidential race.

Palin had already scheduled a bus tour of Pennsylvania on Saturday, but she will now repeat that act Sunday by making various unannounced stops throughout West Virginia, culminating in a campaign event in southeast Ohio.

CNN's Rebecca Sinderbrand, Alexander Marquardt, Dana Bash, Anastasia Diakides and Scott J. Anderson contributed to this report.

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