OBAMA TACKLES MCCAIN’S ‘RADICAL’ HEALTHCARE PLAN…. If you’ve been waiting for the healthcare debate to become a more central focus of the presidential campaign, you’ll be thrilled with the Obama campaign’s new push.

With families increasingly worried about their economic security, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is opening a major assault on what he charges is a “radical plan” by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to decentralize health insurance.

Bill Burton, national press secretary of the Obama campaign, charged: “Millions [would] lose the health care that they have.”

Obama is unveiling his new assault at a rally in Newport News, Va., this afternoon, and the campaign is following up with TV ads, radio spots, mailers and grass-roots events in battleground states, aides said.

Obama is scheduled to say today, “So here’s John McCain’s radical plan in a nutshell: He taxes health care benefits for the first time in history; millions lose the health care they have; millions pay more for the health care they get; drug and insurance companies continue to profit; and middle-class families watch the system they rely on begin to unravel before their eyes.”

Yesterday, the Obama campaign devoted its debate-related ad to healthcare policy, and late yesterday, they went after McCain again with another healthcare ad. It tells viewers:

John McCain talks about a five-thousand dollar tax credit for health care. But here’s what he’s not telling you: McCain would make you pay income tax on your health insurance benefits, taxing health benefits for the first time ever. And that tax credit? McCain’s own website said it goes straight to the insurance companies, not to you. Leaving you on your own to pay McCain’s health insurance tax. Taxing healthcare instead of fixing it. We can’t afford John McCain.”

Ezra had a great item on this, explaining, “It’s really quite amazing. McCain has managed to build a health care plan that’s a bad deal from a medical standpoint, an insurance standpoint, a cost standpoint, and a tax standpoint. Even insurers don’t really win, because patient dissatisfaction with the individual market will almost certainly hasten real reforms. It is, as far as I can tell, a lose-lose-lose-lose-lose health care plan. A rare feat.”

McCain is going to launch smear attacks on Obama’s character and integrity, and Obama is going to take the offensive on healthcare. We’ll see which message resonates more effectively with voters.

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.