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John McCain’s campaign is sticking with its argument that Barack Obama is an aloof celebrity, as aides privately acknowledge that previous efforts to label Obama as a flip-flopper have been nowhere near as effective.

The campaign’s ad this week comparing Obama to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, though attracting criticism from Democrats, got heavy play on the Internet and in print and TV media.

The campaign reportedly is spending $140,000 a day to run the ad in battleground states, and aides are echoing its content in daily talking points.

“We’re running against a celebrity. He is someone who gathered throngs of fans overseas,” McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds told FOX News Saturday.

And after Obama’s campaign announced Saturday it would accept three presidential debates with McCain — and not the kind of town hall meetings McCain had wanted — McCain spokesman Brian Rogers again invoked the comparison.

“We understand it might be beneath a worldwide celebrity of Barack Obama’s magnitude to appear at town hall meetings … but we hope he’ll reconsider,” he said in a statement.

McCain has struggled to stick with one label for Obama, casting him as a pessimist, a liberal and more recently a flip-flopper.

But aides say the flip-flopper charge has not stuck in the minds of voters, and that the campaign will instead continue to define Obama as an inexperienced celeb.

The campaign even tried to mockingly compare him to Moses in an ad released Friday.

McCain told reporters at the time his campaign is just “having some fun” and showing a “sense of humor.”

But that might not be all he has in mind. After Obama spoke to more than 200,000 spectators at his rally last month in Berlin and held high-level meetings recently with members of the Bush administration and foreign leaders, the McCain campaign is driving home the message that Obama is being too presumptuous.

It’s unclear what impact the gambit will have on the polls in the long term, but the Gallup daily tracking poll Saturday showed Obama and McCain tied at 44 percent for the second day in a row. That’s after Obama had opened up a 9-percentage-point lead a week ago.

The McCain campaign even balked at an opportunity to bring back the flip-flopper charge Saturday, after Obama told a Florida newspaper he would support a compromise plan in Congress to allow some offshore oil drilling, which he’s long opposed.

“This wasn’t really a new position,” Obama told reporters.

And the McCain campaign agreed.

They circulated Obama’s claim and sent out their own statement saying: “We hope Barack Obama will realize that his ongoing opposition to John McCain’s realistic energy solutions and additional off shore drilling is wrong.”

Granted, McCain was the first to reverse course and support offshore oil drilling. But his campaign also seemed to drop a charge that Obama was playing the race card. That charge was leveled earlier in the week after Obama told a group of Missouri voters that Republicans would try to make voters afraid of him because he doesn’t look like past presidents.

McCain said Friday he did not bring up the issue, that Obama did, and now he wants to “move on.”

Obama said Saturday he doesn’t think McCain is racist, only cynical. And he ridiculed McCain for the celebrity ads.

“You’ve got statistics that say we’ve lost another 50,000 jobs, that Florida is in a recession for the first time in a decade and a half and what was being talked about was Paris and Britney,” Obama said.

“They’re clever on creating distractions from the issues that really matter in people’s lives,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure we keep focused on people’s day-to-day concerns. We don’t take the skill of the Republicans in engaging in negative campaigning lightly.”

FOX News’ Mosheh Oinounou and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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