Thursday, July 31, 2008

McCain's Attack Ad Strategy - Will it Work?

Harold Ford Jr.

If any of you remember Harold Ford Jr.'s run for the Senate in Tennessee, you will recall the horrendous attack ad run against him by the Republican ad man, Scott Howell. The Huffington Post's Blogger, Taylor Marsh, wrote the following during the campaign, which Ford eventually lost:
The ad Howell produced spews lies on every account about Harold Ford, Jr., but it doesn't stop there. Howell reaches into the deep, dark, dirty message of the south we are all trying to leave to history, resurrecting the racial prejudice one more time to get his client elected. The ad is complete with a naked blonde winking into the camera as she asks Harold to "call me." The ad is pure race baiting, bringing to mind the image of an old stereotype of a black man dating a blonde woman. But you already know that by now. The ad has made it from coast to coast, cheapening everything about Ford and causing a riot of criticism, until the ad had to be pulled. However, it didn't happen voluntarily. They were shamed into it. Unfortunately, it had done it's dirty work and tied the race. Scott Howell took a Super Bowl party thrown by Playboy magazine, which was attended by over 4,000 people (some estimates even higher), including conservatives, and turned it into the insinuation of some private, smutty affair that no decent Tennessean supposedly would ever attend.

Harold Ford never even attended the Super Bowl Party!

Now the McCain campaign, behind in the polls, is using the same attack strategy against Barack Obama, releasing an ad describing Obama as a celebrity with no substance, including pictures of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. In Taegan Goddard's article today on Political Wire, he describes how John Weaver, a long time confidant and friend of Sen. John McCain, blasts McCain for this ridiculus ad:

"McCain's current campaign strategy "diminishes John McCain" and the recent ad linking Sen. Barack Obama to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears was "childish."Said Weaver: "For McCain to win in such troubled times, he needs to begin telling the American people how he intends to lead us. That McCain exists. He can inspire the country to greatness. There is legitimate mockery of a political campaign now, and it isn't at Obama's. For McCain's sake, this tomfoolery needs to stop."

Let's hope that the American voting public will be smart enough not to let this kind of campaigning affect their vote! Swiftboating hurt John Kerry for not fighting back, and the Obama campaign needs to keep Kerry and Ford's experiences in mind. According to Sam Stein of The Huffington Post yesterday:

Responding to a harsh personal attack from John McCain, Barack Obama released a television ad late Wednesday evening accusing the the Arizona Republican's campaign of dirty, superficial politics.
The spot, titled "The Low Road," witnesses the Illinois Democrat playing his trump card: tying McCain to George W. Bush, both in politics and in policy."He's practicing the politics of the past: John McCain," reads the ad. "His attacks on Barack Obama: not true, false, baloney, the low road, baseless. John McCain same old politics same failed policies."
A picture of the presumptive Republican nominee shaking hands with the soon-to-be-departed president fills the screen.
"Barack Obama supports a $1,000 middle class tax cut, an energy plan that takes on oil companies, develops alternative fuels and breaks the grip of foreign oil."
The advertisement comes hours after the McCain camp caused a stir of its own when it put out a spot comparing Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, both in terms of international celebrity and (more subtly) lack of substance. The Obama campaign and the Senator himself denounced the ad, but their rebuttal advertisement is a stronger repudiation. This spot, at once, positions the Senator as above the fray while tying McCain to the widely-unpopular tactics of the Bush years.

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