The remark is apparently intended to turn tables on Obama.
"Sen. Obama says that I'm running for (President George W. Bush's) third term," McCain said in an interview. "Seems to me he's running for Jimmy Carter's second."
In an interview with Fox News, McCain said Obama wants to return "to the failed policies of the '60's and '70's."
Carter is a handy Democratic bogeyman for the McCain campaign, the Politico said Monday.
The Capitol Hill newspaper said McCain is unlikely to throw barbs at Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, not only because Kennedy is suffering from brain cancer, but also because McCain and Kennedy are close friends who have worked together.
Hillary Clinton is not an inviting target, given that the GOP campaign is intent on attracting disaffected Clinton supporters, the newspaper said.
Carter, on the other hand, is seen by many conservatives as responsible for high gasoline prices and national security erosion. On the other hand, millions of voters are not old enough to remember Carter's presidency, which ended almost three decades ago, The Politico said.