The ad, scheduled to start running this week, suggests Mr. McCain would keep the military in Iraq. The spot cuts between Mr. McCain at a town-hall type meeting saying Americans could be there for 100 years and scenes of combat. Steve McMahon's Issue and Image, Alexandria, Va., produced the spot.
RNC Chairman Mike Duncan today called the ad "maliciously false" and said Mr. McCain's answer referred to what could happen after hostilities cease. He called the combat imagery "another attempt to mischaracterize and mislead."
RNC general counsel Sean Cairncross said the ad was also illegal because it represented coordinated expenditure between candidates and the DNC.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said the GOP response was a demonstration that "we struck a nerve."
He defended the ad's accuracy and contended that Republicans are upset because "we are bringing up one of John McCain's major weaknesses."
"It's another attempt to blow smoke," said Mr. Dean.
Joe Sandler, the Democrats' general counsel, said there had been no discussion yet with the cable news networks, but that Democrats normally are given the opportunity to respond to any GOP ad complaints.
Both he and Mr. Dean denied there had been any illegal coordination with Democratic candidates, and Mr. Sandler said there was "no possibility" the ads would get pulled down.
CNN said that it received the letter from RNC but still plans on airing the ad tomorrow.