OBAMA’S SLIGHTLY SHARPER TONE…. The New York Times reports today that the Obama campaign will “intensify” its “assault against Senator John McCain, with new television advertisements and more forceful attacks by the candidate and surrogates” beginning this morning.

And what might this sharper tone look like? The campaign released two new ads this morning, and a third is reportedly on the way before lunch.

The first characterizes McCain as being out of touch: “1982. John McCain goes to Washington. Things have changed in the last 26 years. But McCain hasn’t. He admits he still doesn’t know how to use a computer, can’t send an email. Still doesn’t understand the economy. And favors two hundred billion in new tax cuts for corporations, but almost nothing for the middle class. After one President who was out of touch, we just can’t afford more of the same.”

There’s something of a risk with this spot, given that there are still some folks who can’t use a computer or send emails, but the broader point has a strong political salience — in a race about the past vs. the future, there’s only one candidate with a vision for substantive change. This ad has the added advantage of subtly pointing to McCain as a long time Washington insider.

The second shows Obama talking directly to the camera, without background music: “We’ve heard a lot of talk about change this year. The question is, change to what? To me, change is a government that doesn’t let banks and oil companies rip off the American people. Change is when we finally fix health care instead of just talking about it. Change is giving tax breaks to middle class families instead of companies that send jobs overseas. Change is a president who brings people together. I’m Barack Obama, and I approved this message because this year, change has to be more than a slogan.”

In terms of the “edge,” there’s still an overwhelming difference in the competing tones of the two campaigns’ messages. McCain is still using vile, pathologically dishonest attacks, and Obama is still pursuing honest criticism with a lighter touch. We’ll see if that works.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.