Senator John McCain pressed his strategy of trying to sow doubts about Senator Barack Obama during the closing month of the campaign by asking a crowd at a rowdy rally here Monday: “Who is the real Barack Obama?’’

That question came in a sharply-worded speech in which Mr. McCain dismissed Mr. Obama as “a Chicago politician,’’ said that the Obama campaign had had to return “$33,000 in illegal foreign funds from Palestinian donors,’’ and sought to raise questions and doubts about Mr. Obama’s background. The speech came as the McCain campaign has opened a series of verbal assaults on Mr. Obama as it tries to turn the page on the financial crisis, which many analysts believe has rallied support to the Democrats. But even as Mr. McCain gave the sharper-edged speech, the stock market was plunging.

In the speech, Mr. McCain repeatedly tried to paint Mr. Obama as a largely unknown, risky choice. “I didn’t just show up out of nowhere,’’ Mr. McCain said to cheers, seeking to draw a contrast with Mr. Obama. He said that “even at this late hour in the campaign, there are essential things we don’t know about Senator Obama or the record that he brings to this campaign.’’

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