(CNSNews.com) - With a Los Angeles Times poll showing them in a dead heat, the war of words between Texas Governor George W Bush and Arizona Senator John McCain continued this week on the South Carolina campaign trial.
According to the survey, Bush leads McCain by a two-to-one margin among Republicans in the Palmetto State while McCain enjoys a like margin among Independents and Democrats. Respondents identifying themselves as either Independent or Democratic told pollster that they will cross over and vote in Saturday's Republican primary contest.
Meanwhile, Bush has stepped up his criticism over what he contends are McCain's inconsistencies on campaign finance reform, especially public financing of congressional campaigns.
While McCain says he opposes such financing, Bush people point out that he has supported public financing on five separate occasions in the past. In addition to focusing on public financing, Bush has gone after his chief rival for making use of corporate jets during the campaign and taking money from lobbyists.
"You've got 200 staffers out combing John McCain's voting record, trying to find some kind of contradictions there," McCain said. "I'm sure they will find some contradictions there."
While Bush labels McCain's votes as "inconsistencies," McCain contends they are merely examples of "honorable compromises" needed to get legislation through Congress.
McCain then characterized Bush's stepped-up attacks as "savagery."
"Our politics should not be about savaging each other...this negativism has got to stop," McCain said.
"How can you call it savagery if the man made five votes, legitimate votes, on the floor of the Senate. It's not savagery. It's what we call full exposure, full disclosure. I'm going to continue to talk about differences of opinion," Bush said at a news conference in Greenwood. SC.
Meanwhile, McCain surrogates have also stepped up their criticism of Bush, who has, since last week, gone to great pains to assail the senator's voting record. US Representative Lindsay Graham, a member of Congress from South Carolina, said the Bush campaign is "trying to take our good man and paint him as something he ain't."
Bush has also stepped up his attacks over McCain's support by Independents and Democrats. During an appearance in Saluda, SC, Bush said, "People are welcome to come into the party. I just don't want Democrats coming in to vote against me because they think my opponent will be easier to beat in November. We're trying to get rid of the Clinton era, not reinforce it."
For his part, McCain worked to defend his ability to attract new voters to the party, telling an audience, "I'll reach across the partisan aisle and extend a hand to Democrats. The American people are weary of us constantly, constantly fighting with one another and getting gridlock and never getting anything done."