Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama began airing a new television ad in Las Vegas on Thursday that criticizes Republican John McCain for supporting the proposed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain.
The ad, "Dangerous," states, "If you don't want nuclear waste here, you don't want John McCain here."
It is the second Nevada-specific ad the Obama campaign has aired on the Yucca issue.
The new ad features local residents expressing fears about radioactive waste being shipped to the site, 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, "passing through city after city and town after town."
"He cares about his state; he really doesn't care about Nevada," resident Cathy Kama says in the ad. The narrator states, "John McCain says he's opposed to nuclear waste going through Arizona. But he wants to dump it here, in Nevada."
That claim is taken from a May 2007 interview on the Reno news discussion program "Nevada Newsmakers," in which the Arizona senator was asked if he would be comfortable with nuclear waste being trucked through Phoenix and answered, "No, I would not."
A previous Obama campaign ad featured a clip from the interview, provoking an objection from the show's host, Sam Shad, who said the comment was taken out of context.
In the interview, McCain went on to say that nuclear waste transport would have to be made safer and that the waste's current situation, in pools and ponds on nuclear plant sites around the country, was far more of a risk.
McCain spokesman Rick Gorka said Thursday that the ad was based on a "widely discredited" premise.
"Senator McCain's point was it has to be done safely," he said. "He doesn't want to truck it through any state if it's unsafe. That's irresponsible, whether it's Phoenix or Las Vegas. It has to be done with all the concerns addressed."
If elected, Obama has vowed to stop the repository, which polls show is opposed by most Nevada residents.
McCain, a longtime supporter of the project, has seemed to soften his stance while campaigning here, saying he'd make sure the repository met environmental and safety standards.
"The choice this presidential election could not be more clear," Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., said during a conference call with reporters Thursday.
"Senator McCain has been a leading proponent in favor of storage of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain his entire career. He speaks about it, he brags about it, he wants it, no bones about it. Senator Obama has stated, inside the state of Nevada and outside the state of Nevada, if he is elected, this project is dead."
Nevada twice threw its electoral votes to President Bush, who has pushed Yucca Mountain forward during his years in office.
Asked why the Obama campaign thinks the issue could be a winning one despite that history, Berkley said Nevadans were fooled by Bush's mantra of "sound science" but are determined not to be fooled again.
"This time, Nevadans know better," she said.
Berkley also accused the McCain campaign of using coded racial references to smear Obama.
"When I hear the word 'elitist,' to me that is a code word for 'uppity,' and I find it extremely offensive," Berkley said. "John McCain should know better. ... That's a code word for 'uppity black man,' and that's beneath the dignity of every American."
Contact reporter Molly Ball at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2919.