WASHINGTON Republican U.S. presidential candidate John McCain accused North Carolina's Republican Party of being "out of touch with reality" over its refusal to pull an advertisement criticizing Democrat Barack Obama.
In an NBC interview aired on Friday, the Arizona senator said he has done all he can to persuade the state party to cancel the television ad that criticizes Obama as "too extreme" because of controversial remarks made by his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
"They're not listening to me because they're out of touch with reality and the Republican Party. We are the party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan and this kind of campaigning is unacceptable," McCain told NBC's "Today" Show.
"I've done everything that I can to repudiate and to see that this kind of campaigning does not continue," he added.
Asked if the state party's unwillingness to heed his call raised questions about his leadership, McCain replied: "I don't know exactly how to respond to that."
North Carolina is one of two states holding the next crucial Democratic primaries on May 6 in the tight race between Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton to oppose McCain in the November presidential election.
Obama, an Illinois senator who would be the first black U.S. president, has come under fire for attending Wright's church in Chicago where the fiery black preacher made a number of racially charged statements about the United States.
Wright, who is now retired, said in a PBS interview that people are trying to paint him as "some kind of fanatic."
The McCain campaign said it had been assured that North Carolina Republicans would withdraw the TV ad, scheduled to air early next week.
But the state party served notice that the ad would air. On Friday, a YouTube.com version appeared on the party's Web site at www.ncgop.org with an invitation for visitors to contribute money.
(Reporting by David Morgan, editing by Jackie Frank)