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Barack Obama

Thursday, November 6, 2008 8:47 AM

NationalJournal.com's Mary Gilbert provides analysis of some of Barack Obama's most memorable TV ads and his overall advertising strategy.

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Monday, November 3, 2008 10:30 AM

With his ratings at historic lows, President Bush has remained sidelined during this election season, but his No. 2, Dick Cheney, did emerge this weekend to throw his support behind John McCain. Democrats seemed more excited by this particular endorsement than Republicans, however, as it feeds into their storyline about McCain's ties to the current administration.

Barack Obama's campaign was quick with its reply, releasing a new TV spot just hours after Cheney's remarks from his home state of Wyoming.

"Delighted" (subscription) juxtaposes some of Obama's most respected backers -- billionaire businessman Warren Buffett and former Bush Secretary of State Colin Powell -- with McCain's latest supporter. Showing footage of Cheney endorsing McCain and running mate Sarah Palin, an announcer quips: "Boy, did McCain earn it. He voted with Bush and Cheney 90 percent of the time." "And that's not the change we need," he concludes.

The ad comes as both candidates ramp up their efforts in the final 24-hour push before Election Day. Obama today will hit three states that went for Bush in 2004 -- Florida, North Carolina and Virginia -- while McCain makes stops in seven different battlegrounds.

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Friday, October 31, 2008 1:30 PM

Ahead in the polls and confident about his ground game, Barack Obama is making a final push with two new TV ads that encapsulate his campaign's double-edged strategy of criticizing John McCain while also trying to inspire supporters. The ad buys for these final spots are also representative of the way the campaign is playing out, with Obama pushing further and further into red territory, even McCain's home state.

"Rearview Mirror" (subscription) brings home Obama's argument on the economy and on McCain's relationship with President Bush. The spot shows a man driving a truck down the road, as an announcer asks: "Wonder where John McCain would take the economy? Look behind you." An image of Bush pops up in the rearview mirror. Signs along the road detail how McCain's policies are a direct continuation of Bush's, according to the Obama camp. Finally, the driver looks back in the mirror to see images of Bush and McCain together, as the announcer repeats the now-familiar tagline: "We can't afford more of the same."

In "Something" (subscription), on the other hand, Obama seeks to inspire viewers to become part of the movement that he has created during the course of his campaign. "Something's happening in America -- in small towns and big cities," the announcer observes as the camera pans across large, diverse crowds of Obama supporters. "People from every walk of life uniting in common purpose." The ad touts some of Obama's biggest endorsements, from Warren Buffett and Colin Powell, before showing a clip of one of his characteristically rousing speeches. "We can choose hope over fear, and unity over division, the promise of change over the power of the status quo," he says to huge applause.

The Illinois senator is releasing his new ads in three states that voted overwhelmingly for Bush in 2004 and should have been safe territory for McCain -- Georgia, North Dakota and McCain's home state of Arizona. New data released by the Wisconsin Ad Project [PDF] shows that, during the week of October 21-28, three-quarters of Obama's and McCain's advertising dollars were spent in red states, demonstrating that McCain is, in fact, playing defense.

MoveOn.org is also purchasing time in Arizona to re-air "Obamacan" (subscription), the spot that won the group's "Obama in 30 Seconds" ad contest back in May. It features Air Force veteran John Weiler, who says that although he's "been a Republican since before I could actually vote," he's supporting Obama this year.

Pollster.com shows McCain up by an average of six points in Arizona, but Democrats clearly feel the race is close enough to warrant spending some resources there.

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Thursday, October 30, 2008 12:30 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct. 30, 2008.

Barack Obama's 30-minute infomercial -- estimated to cost $3.5-4 million -- is getting mostly rave reviews from the commentariat. But what do the voters think?

According to Nielson's ratings, they at least tuned in. Overall, 21.7 percent of households watching TV at 8 p.m. on Wednesday night were tuned to one of the six networks that aired the extended ad. Ross Perot, the last presidential candidate to run this type of longer pitch, garnered 16.8 percent of viewers with a spot on Election Day in 1992. The first presidential debate between Obama and John McCain received a 34.7 percent rating and the final debate 38.3 percent.

As for McCain's complaints that Obama was delaying the start of the World Series game, Phillies and Rays fans didn't seem to hold it against him -- the Philadelphia and West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce, Fla., markets ranked second and third highest in the ratings, coming in just behind Baltimore.

UPDATE: Nielsen has reported that that 21.7 percent of households translates to 33.5 million viewers for Obama's ad. On an average Wednesday night, the networks on which the spot aired attract a combined 30.3 million viewers.

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 12:50 PM

Barack Obama is set to air a 30-minute infomercial/campaign ad on network TV at 8 p.m. tonight. But that does not mean his campaign is letting up on its more traditional 30-second spots. Obama has released several new ads in "key states" this week, attacking John McCain on economic issues and touting his own proposals.

In "Tested" (subscription), the Obama camp responds to the controversy over comments by vice presidential candidate Joe Biden at a recent campaign fundraiser, in which he suggested that America's foes would initiate some kind of crisis to "test" Obama within his first six months of office.

"An economic meltdown. Two wars. And John McCain’s playing with audio tapes," an announcer charges, accusing McCain of distorting Biden's message in "Ladies And Gentlemen" (subscription), released last week. The announcer acknowledges that the "next president" will, in fact, "be tested" (implying that it is irrelevant whether Obama or McCain is elected), but he then introduces another part of Biden's comments left out of the McCain ad, in which the Delaware senator says that those who do "test" Obama will "find out this guy’s got steel in his spine."

Citing quotes from several newspaper editorials, the spot goes on to compare Obama's and McCain's reactions to the economic crisis, saying Obama has shown a "steady hand" while McCain has been "erratic." The real "risk" the country faces, the announcer concludes, is electing a president whose "policies follow in [President] Bush’s footsteps."

"His Choice" (subscription) also portrays McCain as inadequate to the task of fixing the economy, but goes a step further with a swipe at the GOP candidate's running mate, Sarah Palin. In this ad, text of three different McCain quotes appears on screen. ""The issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should," reads one. The next says: "I might have to rely on a vice president that I select" for expertise on economic issues. Footage of Palin winking into the TV camera at the vice presidential debate appears, with the words "His choice?" superimposed.

Finally, "Better Off" catalogs the myriad economic challenges -- foreclosures, rising unemployment, falling wages -- facing Americans right now. "For too many, the American dream is fading," Obama chimes in, seeking to identify with working- and middle-class voters. "We need a new direction. Now. And that's why I'm running for president," he says directly into the camera.

Obama plans to use his half-hour spot tonight to make a "closing argument" to the American people, and such messages, focused on helping the middle class and changing the direction of the country, are sure to be at the heart of the address.

Barack Obama, John McCain, Television Ad

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 12:01 PM

John McCain is going for his David-and-Goliath moment. Cash-poor and trailing in the polls, the Arizona senator is launching a preemptive strike against Barack Obama's 30-minute prime-time TV address tonight with "TV Special" (subscription).

The ad opens by tweaking Obama with the terms of celebrity rhetoric that McCain used this summer: "Behind the fancy speeches, grand promises and TV specials lies the truth," an announcer says. The spot contrasts pictures of Obama speaking, including his infamous Berlin address, with others that embody the hot-button issues of the election. Images of soldiers, foreclosure signs and rows of cars flash across the screen while an announcer asserts that Obama "lacks the experience America needs. And it shows. His response to our economic crisis is to spend and tax our economy deeper into recession."

The last line of the ad is a notable change from McCain's other spots on the experience theme: "The fact is, Barack Obama's not ready yet." The word "yet" may appeal to those voters who are wary of the Democrat's lack of experience but still like the idea of him in the White House. By ending on that word, McCain is effectively saying that he's the safer bet now without entirely dismissing Obama.

Barack Obama, Radio Ad, Television Ad

Tuesday, October 28, 2008 3:50 PM

Barack Obama is capping off what his campaign claims is "the most aggressive Spanish-language media effort in presidential campaign history" with a series of new TV and radio ads released Monday. In addition, Obama announced that, along with his purchase of 30 minutes of prime-time TV on CBS, NBC and Fox News, he will also run a half-hour spot on Univision at 8 p.m. Wednesday night.

Obama's final advertising push for Hispanic voters centers around "El Sueno Americano" -- or "The American Dream" -- (subscription), a TV spot in which the Democratic candidate speaks directly to viewers in Spanish. The ad is running in battleground states Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and Virginia.

"We share a dream," Obama says, going on to detail what the American dream means to him: reward for hard work, quality health care and educational opportunity. Obama makes a direct appeal to voters: "I ask for your vote -- not just for me and the Democrats, but to keep this dream alive for you and your children."

Continue reading Hispanic Vote Targeted In Obama's Final Push

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Monday, October 27, 2008 12:30 PM

Barack Obama is set to deliver a "closing argument" speech in the battleground state of Ohio today, but viewers are already getting a preview of the candidates' final pitch through a pair of TV ads released within the last 48 hours.

In "Defining Moment" (subscription), a two-minute spot launched in key states over the weekend, Obama speaks directly to viewers about how he will fix the economy and help working-class Americans. "The real question" for voters, Obama says, "is: Will our country be better off four years from now? How will we lift our economy and restore America's place in the world?" Obama goes on to outline his "rescue plan for the middle class," giving tax cuts to anyone making under $200,000 and granting loans and tax cuts to companies that create jobs at home. Once the immediate crisis has been addressed, Obama says, he'll be able to "focus on our urgent national priorities" like health care, energy and education.

Attempting to address the criticism that his agenda will prove too costly, Obama goes on to explain how he will pay for these initiatives: ending the war in Iraq, letting the "temporary Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent expire" and conducting a thorough audit of government spending. The Democratic candidate ends on a note of optimism, ensuring viewers that "if we stand together, we can meet our challenges and ensure that there are better days ahead."

Obama also released a more combative ad this morning that matches almost precisely a spot (subscription) he ran earlier in October. "New Subject" (subscription) portrays John McCain as desperate and accuses him of using " scare tactics and smears" to "try to tear Barack Obama down."

This combination of positive and negative ads matches a recent trend from the Obama campaign, which, with its campaign coffers overflowing, has had the luxury of running a two-front ad war -- portraying a positive message of change while not hesitating to criticize McCain.

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Friday, October 24, 2008 4:39 PM

After several weeks of back-and-forth between John McCain and Barack Obama over their respective philosophies on taxes, the Illinois senator is encouraging voters to find out for themselves which candidate's tax plan would benefit them more.

In a new TV ad, "Try This" (subscription), Obama directs viewers to TaxCutFacts.org, where they can plug in their income, marital status and number of dependents and calculate how much they would save with each candidate. "The independent Tax Policy Center says Obama offers middle-class tax cuts three times as big as McCain’s," the announcer says, adding that "1.5 million have tried it. You should too."

Barack Obama, Radio Ad

Friday, October 24, 2008 11:58 AM

Barack Obama is getting a little help from popular local surrogates in Indiana and Virginia, two states that went for President Bush in 2004 but where Obama is giving John McCain a run for his money this year.

In the Hoosier State, singer and native son John Mellencamp is featured in a new radio ad focusing on the economy. "I’m seeing small towns across America dying," he laments. Mellencamp describes how Bush's policies "have really hurt" and insists that McCain would continue down the same road. But "Barack Obama gets it," he declares, praising Obama's tax plan and support for "a strong American labor force."

Meanwhile, Virginia Senate candidate and former governor Mark Warner also vouches for Obama in a new radio spot (subscription). "Getting this economy back on track" will require bipartisan cooperation at all levels, he says. "Barack knows that your children shouldn't have to leave their hometown to find a world-class job," and has a plan to fix the economy and improve education and job opportunities, he tells listeners. Finally, he lauds the Illinois senator for his personality and character: "His steady hand, family values and common-sense approach will help get our country back on track."

Barack Obama, John McCain, Television Ad

Friday, October 24, 2008 11:15 AM

Once again, a gaffe by Joe Biden has provided ad fodder for the GOP ticket. Biden's comment last weekend that if elected, Barack Obama will be "tested" by an international crisis soon after taking office is the inspiration for an aggressive TV spot released this morning by John McCain.

Over audio of Biden's comments, "Ladies And Gentlemen" (subscription) airs pictures of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, along with marching Hamas soldiers. The style of the ad -- complete with music reminiscent of a classic horror film and blurry, black-and-white images -- aims to stoke fears that a President Obama would not have the experience needed to lead a country through an international crisis. Following up on Biden's statement that "we're going to have an international crisis ... to test the mettle of this guy. I guarantee you it's gonna happen," an announcer responds: "It doesn't have to happen. Vote McCain."

A couple of days after Biden made his comments, Obama sought to clarify what his running mate was presumably trying to say. "I think that his core point was that the next administration is going to be tested regardless of who it is," Obama said. Appearing to back up the Democrat's clarification, MSNBC's First Read cites examples of recent global crises early in a president's first term, including the violence in Somalia under Bill Clinton and the 9/11 attacks under President Bush.

Barack Obama, Radio Ad, Television Ad

Thursday, October 23, 2008 4:00 PM

When Barack Obama captured the Democratic nomination early this summer, many Democratic insiders feared he would not be able to win over Hispanic voters, who overwhelmingly favored his opponent, Hillary Rodham Clinton, in the primaries. Less than two weeks out from Election Day, however, Obama is posting a solid lead over Republican John McCain among this voting bloc.

Despite what many saw as McCain's potential appeal with Latinos, the Arizona senator is garnering less than 30 percent of the Hispanic vote, according to Gallup, far fewer than the 44 percent President Bush captured in 2004. And this could pose a significant problem for McCain in several battleground states.

Obama, meanwhile, is using his cash advantage to reach out to Hispanic voters in many key states with a new radio and TV ad. "Oportunidad" (subscription), a TV spot running in Colorado, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico, presents Obama's plan to give a $4,000 college tuition credit to students who participate in community service activities. It also claims that Obama will offer "scholarships to recruit more teachers to make sure our children are prepared."

An aggressive radio spot, "Ataques" (subscription), or "Attack," accuses McCain and the Republicans of telling "terrible lies." Discussing the hardships his friends and neighbors are facing, one speaker tells another: "Enough with the attacks. We are in an economic crisis, and I want to know what the candidates will do for us." The two then praise Obama's economic policies, with the woman touting his tax plan as the man adds: "What matters to me is that Obama has a plan to give health insurance to all. My neighbor will be saved!"

The 60-second spot is running in Colorado, Central Florida, Indiana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin, with a slightly different version running in South Florida.

Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar also vouches for Obama in a bilingual radio ad (subscription) that encourages listeners to take advantage of the state's early voting system. Salazar talks about his working-class background and says that Colorado residents share a devotion to family. "You can do something for your family right now: Vote. You don’t have to wait until Election Day," he tells the audience. "With Barack Obama and the Democrats, real change is within our grasp," Salazar declares, hitting on some of Obama's talking points on health care and the economy. "We can’t afford more of the same," he concludes.

Barack Obama

Tuesday, October 21, 2008 5:00 PM

What would you do with $150 million? That's the situation Barack Obama has found himself in after raising a record amount of money in September, and he's coming up with some clever ways to reach voters. Everything from his 30-minute prime-time ad buy slated for Oct. 29 to his unprecedented outreach to video gamers has put the senator in a league of his own.

What other uncharted territory could be tapped as avenues for political advertising? NationalJournal.com staffers asked this question to various political ad experts, tech and online-savvy consultants for speculation. Contributors include Tihan Presbie, co-founder of Miniclip.com; Sabrina L. Sutherland, marketing coordinator of RealNetworks; Paul Freedman, University of Virginia professor and political advertising expert; Jeanne Jennings, founder of e-mail marketing firm JeanneJennings.com; Lee Gibbons, co-founder and CEO of Podango; John Geer, Vanderbilt professor and political ad expert; Daljit Bhurji, managing director of London-based Diffusion, a social media communications agency; and Thomas Gensemer, managing partner of Blue State Digital, which created Obama's social networking site "MyBO."

Here is a rundown of some ad-venturous ways to reach voters -- not to mention burn cash:

Continue reading The Sky's The Limit For Tech-Savvy Advertising

Barack Obama, Domestic Issues, John McCain, Television Ad, Third-Party Ad

Tuesday, October 21, 2008 4:53 PM

Faithful Catholic Citizens is running TV spots in Colorado and Iowa attacking Barack Obama and other Democrats for their support of abortion rights, pouring over $35,000 into two battleground states that polls show may turn blue this year.

With economic turmoil keeping traditional wedge issues like abortion and gay marriage on the campaign back burner, co-founder Tony Likins said his group wanted to redirect the national conversation back to its bread-and-butter issues.

"We've gotten a great response," Likins said. "People keep saying, 'Hooray, where have you been?'"

The latest ad, "Moral Crisis Bailout," addresses Catholic lawmakers in Washington.

"A financial bailout plan to address the economic crisis has been passed, and we pray that it works," the narrator says. "Now we ask you to address the moral crisis in our nation."

Two other (subscription) ads -- both titled "Are You Truly Catholic?" -- hammer Obama for saying that the question of when life begins was "above my pay grade" at Rick Warren's Saddleback Civil Forum on the presidency in August.

"Abortion is intrinsically evil," says the group's co-founder, Heidi Stirrup, in the ad. "It's a non-negotiable issue for Catholics."

If recent polls from Colorado and Iowa are any indication, Faithful Catholic Citizens has a lot of ground to make up. Obama leads John McCain by 5 percentage points in Colorado, according to a FOX News/Rasmussen poll released Monday. A SurveyUSA poll released Oct. 11 showed the Illinois senator with a 13-point lead in Iowa.

The internal numbers also show Obama making inroads with Catholics and abortion opponents. In Iowa, the SurveyUSA poll shows McCain garnering the support of 62 percent of anti-abortion voters, compared to the Democrat's 33 percent. McCain is beating Obama among white Catholics in Colorado 52-41 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Oct. 14.

Continue reading Catholic Group Slams Obama On Abortion

Barack Obama, Domestic Issues, Health Care, John McCain, Radio Ad, Television Ad

Monday, October 20, 2008 12:15 PM

Fresh from raising a record $150 million in September, Barack Obama hit the airwaves Friday with his latest salvo against John McCain's health care policy.

"First we learned he's going to tax health care benefits to pay for part of it," the narrator says in "It Gets Worse" (subscription). "Now the Wall Street Journal reports John McCain would pay for the rest of his health care plan 'with major reductions to Medicare and Medicaid.'"

The McCain campaign has vigorously denied the TV spot's contention that the Arizona senator would cut seniors' benefits, and the New York Times questioned some of the ad's claims, suggesting they're based on "assumptions that are stitched together from news reporting and rough back-of-the-envelope calculations by a partisan policy group," the left-leaning Center for American Progress.

Obama also released a radio spot in Florida Thursday accusing McCain of wanting to cut NASA funding, an argument that turns on McCain's proposal to enact a spending freeze to close the budget deficit.

McCain "wants to freeze NASA spending at last year's level," says Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., in the ad. "So layoffs would loom larger, and NASA would continue to be starved of funds for future exploration."

For his part, McCain visited the state Friday and promised $2 billion in additional funding for the space agency, arguing that Obama is the one who would cut NASA's budget. The Democrat once proposed delaying the Constellation program, which would return humans to the moon, to pay for his education plan.

Barack Obama, Immigration, Television Ad, Third-Party Ad

Friday, October 17, 2008 12:10 PM

It's less than three weeks before Election Day and the economy continues to dominate headlines, propelling Barack Obama's gain over John McCain in the polls. What's a conservative group to do? One PAC is turning to perhaps the only topic that could tear both voters and the media away from the financial crisis: the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

The National Republican Trust PAC started running an ad, "License" (subscription), in Ohio on Thursday that uses images of a burning World Trade Center and hijacking mastermind Mohammad Atta. The spot notes that many of the 9/11 hijackers were able to obtain driver's licenses and claims that Obama's support for allowing states to issue licenses to illegal immigrants would endanger the nation's security.

"Nineteen terrorists infiltrate the U.S." the ad's announcer says. "Thirteen get drivers licenses. The 9/11 plot depended on easy-to-get licenses." Images of Obama and of the smoke- and fire-filled towers follow one of Atta's face on a Florida driver's license while the announcer asserts, falsely, that "Obama's plan gives a license to any illegal who wants one." The ad goes on to tie its central claim about national security to hot-button issues such as the housing crisis and voter fraud, warning that illegal immigrants with licenses could "get government benefits, a mortgage, board a plane, even illegally vote."

The issue of whether or not to grant licenses to illegal immigrants -- and, for that matter, the subject of immigration in general -- has hardly come up during the general election. It played a far larger role during the primaries, when Republican candidates accused each other of favoring "amnesty" and Democrats sparred over the licensing issue.

While the amount of the ad buy has not officially been confirmed, the Politico dug up FEC fillings that show the group has spent $200,000 opposing Obama. How much of that is tied up in this ad is unclear. The group also sent out e-mails making the same claims as the ad does, while also alerting supporters of the plans to release the spot. It's reportedly running in Ohio, with potential plans to run it in more states.

Barack Obama, John McCain, Senate Race, Television Ad

Thursday, October 16, 2008 5:00 PM

Updated Friday, Oct. 16, 2008.

The Republican Party's national committees are pulling ads in key presidential battleground states and in a hotly contested Senate race, in just the latest sign of the GOP's sinking electoral fortunes.

The Republican National Senatorial Committee is pulling its ads from the Louisiana Senate race, where state Treasurer John Kennedy's challenge to two-term Sen. Mary Landrieu is considered the GOP's best shot to unseat an incumbent Democrat.

NRSC communications director Rebecca Fisher declined to discuss the timing of the pullout. But Leonardo Alcivar, the Kennedy campaign's communications director, was blunt in his assessment of the Republican committee's decision to withdraw.

"They need to help fund incumbents who two weeks ago were not vulnerable and now are," he said. "It’s a reflection of the national political landscape and not the local political landscape."

Alcivar added that his campaign has already benefited from the NRSC's support, and that Kennedy has the resources to compete with and win against Landrieu in the home stretch.

The most recent poll in that race, a Rasmussen Reports survey released Sept. 27, showed Landrieu with a commanding 54-41 lead over the Republican challenger.

Hannah August, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said the Republican committee's retreat reaffirmed the DSCC's confidence heading toward Election Day.

"They essentially gave up their only alleged seat to pick up," she said. "I think they've realized that Mary Landrieu is in a strong position to win re-election. We've been saying it all along."

Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee will stop running presidential ads in Maine and Wisconsin, AP reported Wednesday. The move comes as John McCain's poll numbers continue to slide in the Upper Midwest: Barack Obama leads the Arizona senator by 17 percentage points in Wisconsin, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday. The committee's withdrawal from Wisconsin comes on the heels of McCain's decision to essentially concede defeat in Michigan two weeks ago.

Maine is one of two states that awards its electoral votes along congressional district lines, and McCain hopes to pick off a vote in the relatively conservative 2nd District. Despite the committee's move, the McCain campaign isn't writing the Pine Tree State off yet: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin rallied supporters in Bangor this morning and hinted at her campaign's desire to nab one of the state's electoral votes.

UPDATE: The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder reports that the NRSC is also planning to pull its ad dollars from the Colorado Senate race by next week. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., is leading Republican Bob Shaffer 54-40 in an Quinnipiac University poll released Oct. 14.

Barack Obama, John McCain, Television Ad

Thursday, October 16, 2008 1:10 PM

Wednesday night's final presidential debate featured fighting words from John McCain, though Barack Obama appeared unfazed by his opponent's persistent onslaught. But the Arizona senator did score the line of the evening, when he looked Obama in the eyes and told him: "Senator Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago."

Both camps released ads this morning that either directly or indirectly reference the debate and Bush. The Obama campaign's "90 percent" (subscription) features a clip of McCain's one-liner in the debate, to which an announcer responds: "True, but you did vote with Bush 90 percent of the time."

Obama acknowledged at the Hofstra University forum that McCain has broken with the Bush administration on some policies -- environmentalism and torture, for example -- but insisted that on the one topic that is most important to the American people -- the economy -- McCain represents more of the same; this is the point that the TV spot reiterates. "Tax breaks for big corporations and the wealthy, but almost nothing for the middle class -- same as Bush," an announcer says. The announcer also ties McCain to the Bush administration's Iraq policies, claiming the Arizona senator will continue spending "$10 billion a month in Iraq while our own economy struggles." Finally, the ad uses McCain's own words against him, as it closes with footage of the Republican senator boasting: "I voted with the president over 90 percent of the time -- higher than a lot of my even Republican colleagues."

But in McCain's "Fight" (subscription), the Republican nominee speaks directly to viewers about how he plans to take the economy in a different direction than the Bush administration. "The last eight years haven't worked very well, have they?" McCain begins in the 60-second spot. "Your savings, your job and your financial security are under siege," he continues. "Washington is making it worse -- bankrupting us with their spending."

McCain's next statements imply, however, that by "Washington," he actually means Obama and Joe Biden. "Telling us paying higher taxes is 'patriotic'?" McCain says incredulously, referring to comments Biden made on "Good Morning America" in September.

The GOP nominee also continues to reference Joe Wurzelbacher of Ohio -- more famously known now as "Joe the Plumber" -- who saw the spotlight shined on him quite a bit during the debate. Alluding to Obama's exchange with Wurzelbacher on Sunday in which he explained why he wanted to raise taxes for Americans earning higher incomes, McCain chides Obama for "saying we need to 'spread the wealth around.'"

The rest of the spot turns to a positive note, with McCain underscoring how his recently announced "Pension and Family Security Plan," along with his "Jobs For America" economic plan, will help revive the economy, create more jobs and lessen dependence on foreign oil.

McCain got some help from the independent expenditure arm of the Republican National Committee this morning, as well. The RNC launched a new ad, "Chair" (subscription), which questions whether Obama has the necessary experience to lead the country through a financial "meltdown." "This crisis would be Obama's first crisis in this chair," the announcer says, as the camera pans around the Oval Office.

The subject of "executive experience" was a GOP favorite earlier in the campaign, but had played less of a role in the Republican advertising strategy in recent weeks.

-- Amy Harder contributed reporting to this post.

Barack Obama, Radio Ad

Wednesday, October 15, 2008 10:30 AM

After several weeks of intense criticism from the right over his relationship with former 1960's radical William Ayers, Barack Obama is addressing the topic head-on in an ad.

A new radio spot (subscription) running in key states echoes a TV ad released by the campaign last Friday which criticized John McCain for his negative campaigning. But while the TV spot made only a veiled reference to Ayers, the announcer of the radio ad gets into the subject in some detail.

Introducing Ayers as a "professor of education," the announcer explains that he "once served with Obama on a school reform board, a board funded by conservative Republicans with ties to McCain." The spot reiterates a point that Obama camp has made repeatedly: that the Illinois senator was eight years old when Ayers began his radical activities as a member of the Weather Underground. "Ayers has had no role in Obama’s campaign and will have no role in his administration," the announcer says.

McCain opted not to bring Obama's relationship with Ayers up in the second presidential debate, despite the fact that he and running mate Sarah Palin were pounding the message on the campaign trail. The Arizona senator recently hinted in a radio interview, however, that the subject might surface in tonight's final showdown.

Barack Obama, Economy, Radio Ad, Third-Party Ad

Tuesday, October 14, 2008 4:20 PM

The American Federation of Government Employees hit the airwaves with a one-minute radio advertisement Friday, asking blue-collar voters to ignore race and gender in the presidential election and focus on the issues.

The idea for "Courage to Change" (subscription) came from an August meeting of union leaders in Chicago, explained AFGE National President John Gage, who stars in the ad.

"All of us reported getting stinging e-mails and hearing the code words of racism from some members" after the AFL-CIO endorsed Barack Obama earlier in the year, Gage said. (The AFGE is a member union of the AFL-CIO.) "There was a frank discussion of race at the meeting, and we decided to go after it head-on."

The union has already shelled out $500,000 to run the ad in Florida, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virgina and West Virginia -- with "more to come." While a union representative said the ad's focus on racism and sexism means it could apply to both campaigns, there's little doubt from its opening lines that the radio spot is most concerned with the former.

"I’m old enough to appreciate the union movement’s contributions to civil rights -- and I’m white enough to pick up on the code words of prejudice," Gage says, later adding, "There are 100 good reasons for how you vote this year and only one bad reason."

The ad isn't designed to convince voters to give up racism, Gage told NationalJournal.com, but to make the economic costs of that bias clear.

"Prejudice is not free," he added.

Gage isn't the only one making waves on the race issue this election season. Richard Trumka, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, blasted racism during a steelworkers convention in July in a speech that has since been viewed hundreds of thousands of times online.

The AFGE also plans to release an advertisement with television personality Judge Joe Brown closer to Election Day that will encourage listeners to resist voter suppression efforts at the polls, Gage said.

Barack Obama, Radio Ad, Television Ad

Tuesday, October 14, 2008 1:00 PM

Barack Obama is using his cash advantage to overwhelm John McCain on the airwaves, outpacing his opponent in nearly every battleground state according to the latest data from the Wisconsin Ad Project [PDF]. Moreover, Evan Tracy, head of TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group, indicated in a blog post last week that Obama is on pace to spend more money on ads in the final 25 days of the campaign than McCain's entire $85 million allotment of public campaign funds. (McCain is also getting help from the Republican National Committee, but the Obama camp still bests both combined in fundraising).

Here are several spots that the Obama campaign has released in recent days:

"Lose" (subscription) pounds McCain for resorting to a "smear" campaign at a time of national economic crisis. "It's clear: With no plan to fix our economy, smears are all McCain has left," an announcer declares. The ad responds specifically to two allegations from the McCain camp regarding Obama's ties to Chicago politics. As a picture of a Ramada Inn appears, the announcer insists that is the location where Obama launched his political career, not the living room of Weather Underground member William Ayers. In response to a spot (subscription) released by the Republican National Committee that calls Obama adviser William Daley the "heir to the Chicago machine," Obama's ad notes that Daley was "confirmed as commerce secretary and praised for his great work by none other than John McCain."

Continue reading Obama Looks To Bury McCain With Spending Spree

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Friday, October 10, 2008 11:56 AM

Barack Obama's campaign announced late Thursday that it has purchased 30 minutes of prime-time TV on Oct. 29, less than a week before Election Day, for the Illinois senator to make his closing argument to voters. Deals have been struck with CBS and NBC, while the campaign is reportedly still in negotiations with Fox News and other networks.

Ross Perot was the last candidate to employ the half-hour campaign infomercial strategy in 1992, but Vanderbilt University political science professor John Geer said purchasing big chunks of air time close to the election used to be common; Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter both made similar buys.

"I think it's smart politics" for Obama, Geer said. He noted that the utility of additional 30-second TV spots diminishes at the level of saturation that Obama and John McCain have achieved this cycle, so doing something different could be a good use of funds. And "Obama has enough money to be able to do this," he added.

With the country in the grip of a worsening economic crisis, voters are looking for a steady leader to guide them through an uncertain time, Geer said. One of Obama's biggest challenges, the professor said, has been to make voters comfortable with him as a president. He has seemed "unflappable" during the recent economic upheaval and, "given his rhetorical skills," a long spot from Obama is likely to be well-done. It could turn out to be the "modern equivalent of the fireside chat," Geer contended.

Geer also predicted that McCain’s camp might try to "redistribute" its resources to try something similar, giving the Arizona senator an equal chance to speak directly to voters.

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Thursday, October 9, 2008 4:29 PM

In a strictly political sense, the failing economy has been a blessing to Barack Obama's candidacy. And the Illinois senator is capitalizing on the fiscal crisis in several TV ads running in battleground states.

In "Floridians Hurting" (subscription), Obama seeks to empathize with voters. "America's economy in crisis, and Floridians hurting more than most," the announcer begins. Citing unemployment and foreclosure statistics, he warns viewers: John McCain "promises more of the same failed Bush policies that got our economy into this mess in the first place." Obama has been rising in Florida polls over the last several weeks, coinciding with the economy's deterioration, and now sits nearly 5 percentage points ahead of McCain in Pollster.com's average.

"Mills" (subscription) is running in North Carolina, a traditionally red state that President Bush won by 8 points in 2004 but where Obama and McCain are in a dead heat now. The ad laments the fact that 17 manufacturing plants have recently closed their doors in the Tar Heel State and that "workers once proud to make the thread for American flags have [had] their futures outsourced to Asia." The announcer blames "politicians like John McCain, who supported trade deals and tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas."

"Unravel" (subscription), running in Florida and Pennsylvania, among other "key states," lambastes McCain's health care policy and warns viewers that they could end up paying more for coverage or even risk being "dropped completely" under McCain. "And since McCain won't require coverage for pre-existing conditions, finding a new plan could leave you hanging by a thread," the announcer says. PolitiFact, a nonpartisan fact-checking project, gave a similar Obama ad a "barely true" rating last week.

Finally, the Illinois senator is reaching out to a crucial voter bloc in several swing states: Hispanics. He launched "Otra Vez Con Lo Mismo" (subscription), or "Again, More of the Same," earlier this week in Colorado, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico -- all states where the Hispanic vote could be pivotal. "Here we go again," the announcer begins. "McCain is up to the same distortions and lies on the immigration issue." The announcer says McCain "turned his back" on the Latino community by not following through on his proposed immigration bill last summer. While the conventional wisdom was that Obama might have a hard time winning over Hispanics, a recent Gallup survey showed him maintaining a sizable advantage over McCain among this group: 64 percent to 26 percent.

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Thursday, October 9, 2008 11:45 AM

In perhaps the most newsworthy moment of Tuesday night's debate between John McCain and Barack Obama, the Arizona senator announced a new $300 billion proposal to let homeowners refinance their mortgages with assistance from the government. The plan is getting mixed reviews, but Obama came out in opposition to it on Wednesday and this morning launched a TV ad suggesting it puts "bad actors ahead of taxpayers."

"Tested" (subscription) begins with pictures of a foreclosure sign and stunned bankers on Wall Street, as an announcer says, "In a time of crisis, our leaders' judgment is tested." The spot goes on to show footage of McCain from the debate saying he would "order the secretary of the Treasury to immediately buy up the bad home loan mortgages in America." The announcer suggests, however, that McCain's proposal came without any relevant "details," and he cites a CNNMoney.com article from Wednesday claiming that McCain's plan would guarantee "a loss of taxpayer money" while rewarding "the same lenders that caused the crisis in the first place."

The Obama campaign's economic policy director, Jason Furman, also put out a statement yesterday calling the plan "erratic policy-making at its worst." "Senator McCain's first response to this economic crisis was to say that the fundamentals of our economy are strong. Since then, he's acknowledged that there is a crisis and offered multiple plans, sometimes conflicting," Furman said. "Now that he's finally released the details of his [mortgage] plan, it turns out it's even more costly and out-of-touch than we ever imagined."

Meanwhile, on the trail Wednesday McCain spent little time expanding on his new proposal, focusing instead on raising questions about Obama's associations and readiness to lead.

Barack Obama, John McCain, Television Ad

Wednesday, October 8, 2008 6:40 PM

John McCain purchased $1.25 million worth of television advertising in Michigan last week, the same week he withdrew from the state and effectively conceded defeat.

McCain's substantial (and puzzling) ad buys from Sept. 28 to Oct. 4 are the most he has ever spent in seven days in the Wolverine State, according to a report [PDF] released Wednesday by the nonpartisan University of Wisconsin Advertising Project. Of the 15 battleground states where McCain bought ads last week, he spent more money only in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

But McCain more or less conceded Michigan Oct. 2, pulling ads and shipping most staffers to more competitive states. And unlike Barack Obama's recent retreats from North Dakota and Georgia, where the Illinois senator had been hoping for a long-shot pickoff, McCain had identified Michigan as a central front in his battle for 270 electoral votes.

"It's not like they were messing around in Michigan," said Ken Goldstein, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and director of the ad project. "They made a serious effort there, and now they have made a serious effort to pull out."

Continue reading McCain Spent $1.25 Million In Michigan On Eve of Pullout

Barack Obama, Domestic Issues, Third-Party Ad

Wednesday, October 8, 2008 3:30 PM

The National Rifle Association is intensifying it's anti-Barack Obama media campaign, launching an additional TV spot -- including a Spanish-language version -- in several news battleground states. But the Illinois senator is defending his position on gun control and using other strategies to try to reach out to a segment of the population targeted by the NRA: rural voters.

The NRA has already spent several million dollars running ads in Colorada, New Mexico and Pennsylvania, but the group is now moving into media markets in Florida, Ohio and Virginia with a new spot, "Texas Law Enforcement Officer" (subscription). The ad features Andy Vaquera, a retired police officer from Texas, who says that in his line of work he has "seen firsthand the tragedy that happens when people are stripped of their gun rights." Footage of crime scenes and red and blue flashing lights play on screen as Vaquera evokes what is a sensitive issue in many states: illegal immigration. "Families should be able to defend themselves against rapists, drug dealers and other criminals illegally crossing our borders," he insists, claiming that Obama would prevent Americans from being able to use guns in self-defense.

Obama is firing back with his own ad (subscription) featuring a lifetime NRA member, Greg West, expressing his support for the Democratic nominee. "I hunt, I fish, I love the outdoors," West says, adding his love for America to that list and proclaiming, "I support Barack Obama." An announcer ensures veiwers that Obama "supports gun rights, our right to defend ourselves, the Second Amendment," before pivoting to a brief attack on John McCain's tax policy. West appears on screen at the end, calling Obama "our best hope for true change in Washington."

The Obama campaign says they plan to run the ad wherever the NRA puts its spots on air.

The Illinois senator is also getting some help courting rural voters in Southern Virginia from an unlikely source: bluegrass music legend Ralph Stanley. Stanley is featured in a radio ad (subscription), greeting listeners with a friendly "howdy" before launching into his pitch for Obama. "I think I know a little something about the families around here. And after the last eight years, I know we all need a change," the musician twangs, banjo music playing in the background. Stanley praises Obama's economic and education policies before testifying for the candidate's character: "Barack is a good man. A father and devoted husband, he values personal responsibility and family first." He concludes by asking viewers to join him on Election Day "in supporting a true friend of the people who live right here in Southwest Virginia."

State polls this week show Obama slightly ahead in each of the new states that the NRA is targeting -- Florida, Ohio and Virginia.

Barack Obama, John McCain, Web Ad

Wednesday, October 8, 2008 10:34 AM

Barack Obama's new 13-minute video on John McCain's role in the "Keating Five" scandal is making waves this week, but it's only the latest salvo in what has been an ongoing ad war in cyberspace between the two candidates.

As Amy Harder discusses in a new NationalJournal.com online exclusive, Web advertising in all its incarnations is opening up a new set of opportunities -- and risks -- for presidential campaigns, and McCain and Obama are taking advantage of the technology in sharply distinctive ways.

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Wednesday, October 8, 2008 10:24 AM

Barack Obama continues to use TV ads to hammer away at John McCain's health care plan, releasing a spot this morning that includes footage of an exchange between the two during last night's presidential debate.

"Taketh" (subscription) opens with McCain vowing to viewers that he will give them a $5,000 tax credit to be put toward health care costs. "What he doesn't tell you," Obama told the audience of undecided voters in Nashville, Tenn., "is that he's going to tax your employer-based health care benefits, for the first time ever." Obama has claimed in previous ads that McCain's policy will end up costing middle-class families more, while representing the largest tax increase in the nation's history. "So what one hand giveth, the other hand taketh away," Obama said Tuesday night.

McCain got high marks from some pundits for his handling of domestic issues at Belmont University, but according to early polls, viewers saw the Illinois senator as the winner of Tuesday night's showdown.

Barack Obama, John McCain, Television Ad

Tuesday, October 7, 2008 12:25 PM

The bitter back-and-forth between Barack Obama and John McCain continued this morning as each candidate released a TV ad accusing the other of dishonest attacks, setting a contentious tone for tonight's presidential debate in Nashville, Tenn.

Obama's spot, "The Subject" (subscription), echoes an ad (subscription) released yesterday in denouncing McCain's efforts to shift attention from the struggling economy. "He's out of ideas, out of touch and running out of time," the announcer says, portraying McCain as desperate, with the election clock winding down.

The spot goes on to claim that McCain has no solution for getting the country out of its current fiscal downturn, so he is turning to "smears." It also cites comments from an unidentified McCain adviser who told the New York Daily News on Monday: "If we keep talking about the economic crisis, we're going to lose." The ad appeals to voters who are suffering as they "lose their jobs, homes and savings" and insists that "it's time for a president who'll change the economy -- not change the subject."

With similarly harsh language, McCain goes after Obama's image as an above-the-fray politician and seeks to raise questions about what he stands for in "Hypo" (subscription). The spot opens with footage from a local TV news report in Missouri in which the reporter says the Obama campaign asked law enforcement officials to "target" anyone running misleading attack ads against the Democratic candidate. "How hypocritical," an announcer charges, citing reports that characterize several of Obama's ads as "falsehood[s]," and "not true." Obama "promised better," the announcer concludes. "He lied."

The candidates go into tonight's debate at Belmont University in Nashville with Obama holding a lead in national and battleground state polls.

Barack Obama, Health Care, Television Ad, Third-Party Ad

Monday, October 6, 2008 5:31 PM

As John McCain's campaign seeks to shift the presidential race away from pocketbook issues, Barack Obama is keeping the focus on the kitchen table. The Illinois senator's camp is striking on health care, hitting the topic repeatedly on the campaign trail and charging in several new TV spots that McCain's plan would cost working families more and amount to the largest tax increase ever for many of them.

Obama began the onslaught last week with "Prescription" (subscription), which portrays McCain's explanation of his plan as a half-truth. "John McCain talks about a $5,000 tax credit for health care," but "he's not telling you" the whole story, the announcer says. The Arizona senator's plan calls for employees to "pay income tax on your health insurance benefits, taxing health benefits for the first time ever." What's worse, the ad says, the revenue from those taxes "goes straight to the insurance companies." The announcer concludes that McCain's plan resorts to "taxing health care instead of fixing it." (PolitiFact, a joint project of the St. Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly, scores the ad as "barely true" for its claim that McCain's plan would leave people on their own, noting that "there's ample evidence to show that the plan would be a wash for most workers.")

"One Word" (subscription) conveys a nearly identical message, labeling the McCain health care plan "a multitrillion-dollar tax hike, the largest middle-class tax increase in history." The announcer goes on to warn viewers that a McCain administration "could cost your family thousands" in additional health care costs.

Meanwhile, in "Coin" (subscription), Obama claims that while he would increase coverage for routine treatments, McCain would "deregulate the insurance giants, letting them bypass patient protections in your state." Furthermore, whereas Obama would require insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions, "McCain would let them continue to do as they please." Playing on the image of a flipped coin, the announcer asks, "Isn't your health care too important to be left to chance?"

Obama is also getting an assist from the Service Employees International Union, a labor group that has endorsed him and run several ads promoting his candidacy.

"Worried Sick" (subscription) features two women walking through the grocery store, discussing the difficulties one of them is facing after her husband has undergone surgery. "I don’t know how we’re going to pay all the bills," she frets, adding: "We’ve got insurance, but it doesn’t seem to cover much." If voters are "worried sick about health care costs" now, an announcer interjects, "John McCain's plan won’t help."

SEIU is running the ad in battleground states Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Barack Obama, John McCain, Television Ad

Monday, October 6, 2008 4:20 PM

With under a month to go until Election Day, John McCain and Barack Obama are getting personal. Both campaigns have announced they're launching more aggressive attacks which take aim at each other's character and try to establish guilt by association.

For its part, the Obama camp has launched a TV ad as well as an online messaging effort -- complete with a 13-minute documentary -- highlighting McCain's involvement in the Keating Five savings and loan scandal nearly 20 years ago. Meanwhile, the GOP camp has plans to release several ads that take aim at Obama's judgment and personal associations.

The Illinois senator released his TV spot, "This Year" (subscription) on Saturday that preemptively defends himself from McCain's anticipated attacks by characterizing his opponent as desperate. It is also the first TV from the Obama camp to directly reference McCain's temperament -- citing a USA Today editorial that labels McCain's response to the financial meltdown as "erratic."

"No wonder his campaign’s announced a plan to 'turn the page on the financial crisis,'" the ad's announcer says, referencing Saturday's Washington Post story about the McCain campaign's plan of attack. The spot goes on to accuse McCain distracting voters "with dishonest, dishonorable 'assaults' against" Obama at a time when people are concerned about the country's economic future. "We can’t afford another president who’s this out of touch," he says, as a photo of McCain and President Bush fills the screen.

The McCain camp said it's waiting until after the second presidential debate Tuesday to release the series of new ads that, among other things, brings to the forefront Obama's relationship with Chicago businessman and now convicted felon Tony Rezko. In the meantime, however, Republicans aren't skimping on on harsh accusations.

An ad released this morning, "Dangerous" (subscription), throws the "dishonorable" charge back at Obama for supposedly saying at an August rally that U.S. troops are "just air-raiding villages and killing civilians." But the footage used in "Dangerous" takes Obama's comments out of context; what he said was, "We've got to get the job done there and that requires us to have enough troops so that we're not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous pressure over there." The Illinois senator has, in fact, called for sending additional troops to Afghanistan

This ad comes on the heels of another, "Promise," released by the McCain camp after the first presidential debate. The spot pits the Democratic ticket against itself, calling Obama out for voting again troop funding and highlighting Joe Biden's criticism of that position.

The Obama camp was quick to respond to the most recent ad via a statement by John B. Natham, a retired four-star admiral: "Despite consistent distortions of his record, thousands of veterans like myself support Senator Obama because he has the judgment, character and integrity to be a great president."

-- Mary Gilbert contributed to this report.

Barack Obama, Health Care, Television Ad

Friday, October 3, 2008 12:50 PM

Barack Obama began airing a new TV spot (subscription) today that features arguably Joe Biden's best sound bite from last night's debate, challenging Sarah Palin's statements on health care.

During Thursday night's forum, Biden criticized John McCain's plan to give families a $5,000 tax credit for health care because it would mean taxing employer health plans. "Taxing your health care benefit," he said. "I call that the ultimate 'Bridge to Nowhere.'"

The line, a thinly veiled jab at Palin's onetime support for the now-infamous Gravina Island Bridge -- a.k.a. the "Bridge to Nowhere" -- drew a laugh from the otherwise well-behaved crowd at Washington University in St. Louis last night.

"Can't Explain" is the second Obama spot this fall to make use of debate footage: The Illinois senator hit the airwaves last week with an ad highlighting the fact that McCain did not use the phrase "middle class" in their first debate. McCain produced an ad mocking Obama for agreeing with the Arizona senator a number of times in their first meeting, but that spot was released on the Web only.

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Wednesday, October 1, 2008 4:20 PM

Barack Obama is going after John McCain's reputation as a fiscal conservative in a new TV ad released this afternoon.

"Spending Spree" (subscription) opens with footage of McCain saying that he "can't wait to introduce" his running mate, Sarah Palin, "to the big spenders in Washington." "Big spenders… like John McCain," the announcer jeers. He argues that McCain's policies on taxes and Social Security would add trillions of dollars to the national debt. "So as we borrow from China to fund his spending spree, ask yourself: Can we afford John McCain?"

Barack Obama, Television Ad, Third-Party Ad

Tuesday, September 30, 2008 4:00 PM

The fiscal meltdown is yet again the focal point of dueling Democratic and Republican TV ads today. Barack Obama released another two-minute mini-speech on the state of the nation's economy and how he would depart from the approach taken by President Bush for the last eight years. Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee's independent expenditure arm is out with a spot lambasting Obama's economic policies, which it says would take the country deeper into economic turmoil.

The RNC's new ad is turning heads for not only criticizing Obama's economic agenda, but seemingly contradicting John McCain's message on the federal bailout. While McCain is still attempting to play dealmaker on Capitol Hill and encouraging Congress to pass the legislation, "Worse" (subscription) attacks the deal in the harshest terms. "Wall Street squanders our money and Washington is forced to bail them out with -- you guessed it -- our money," the announcer jeers. According to Ben Smith, the ad was sent out to TV stations early Monday morning, before the bill tanked.

The ad is slated to run in battleground states Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Virginia. Brad Todd, a partner at OnMessage Inc. who produced the spot, said it was a response to a moment in Friday's presidential debate when Obama (as well as McCain) failed to identify a part of his agenda that he would have to put off because of the budget constraints that the next president is sure to face. "The fact that Senator Obama would still spend nearly a trillion dollars even after Congress addresses the financial crisis is something the American public needs to know," Todd maintained.

In Obama's ad (subscription), the Illinois senator speaks straight into the camera, repeating several now-familiar lines about the failure of the Bush administration's trickle-down economic theory. "We know the truth. It didn't work," he says. Acknowledging that "our economy's in turmoil," Obama still attempts to inject a sense of optimism: "I know that we can steer ourselves out of this crisis." Obama then offers several distinctions between his and McCain's tax plans, emphasizing that he does not intend to raise taxes on the majority of Americans.

Barack Obama, John McCain, Radio Ad, Television Ad, Web Ad

Tuesday, September 30, 2008 12:30 PM

Oops. Joe Biden declared recently that the Democratic ticket was against clean coal when Barack Obama's energy plan explicitly shows the Illinois senator's support for it. This gaffe, which Biden made at a campaign rally in Ohio, has prompted three new ads -- two by John McCain attacking his opponent over it and one by Obama aiming to emphasize his commitment to clean coal.

Obama's ad makes no attempt to reconcile Biden's comment with the Illinois senator's position on the issue, but rather seeks to portray Obama as a longtime friend of the coal industry. "Figured" (subscription) features Randy Henry, an Illinois miner, vouching for Obama's support of the industry as a state and U.S. senator. While the candidate may be from Chicago, Henry insists that Obama made a concerted effort to visit coal mines in Southern Illinois and help communities that were struggling as mining jobs disappeared.

Meanwhile, the McCain camp released a radio ad, "Clean Coal" (subscription), Monday in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia that features a clip of Biden's comment, charging that "Obama-Biden and their liberal allies oppose clean coal." The spot argues for the importance of clean coal, specifically to the residents of the aforementioned battleground states, and links the Democratic ticket's alleged opposition to clean coal with other energy issues. "No energy independence for America? It's no surprise," an announcer says. "After all, Obama-Biden and their liberal allies opposed offshore drilling." The script of the ad is virtually the same in each state; only the reference of the state name changes from market to market.

The McCain camp also released a mocking Web ad last week, "The Coal Miner," which juxtaposes footage of Obama speaking in support of clean coal with Biden speaking in opposition to it. The ad concludes with text on screen reading: "Obama + Biden. Ready to pander? Yes. Ready to lead? No."

-- Mary Gilbert contributed reporting to this post.

Barack Obama, Economy, Television Ad

Monday, September 29, 2008 4:00 PM

Barack Obama continued his economic offensive this afternoon, taking up a topic which he has hit on before (subscription) -- executive pay.

"Parachutes" (subscription) notes that the CEO of Washington Mutual, a bank that collapsed last week, "could walk away with $19 million." It then goes on to point out that one of John McCain's economic advisers, Carly Fiorina, received $42 million when she was fired from Hewlett-Packard in 2005. Footage of Obama at a town hall shows him decrying the practice as "an outrage": "You’ve got corporate executives who are giving themselves million dollar golden parachutes and leaving workers high and dry. That’s wrong."

Barack Obama, John McCain, Television Ad

Monday, September 29, 2008 1:00 PM

Within 24 hours of the first presidential debate, both candidates were out with ads attacking the other on the topic they consider themselves more qualified in -- Barack Obama on the economy and John McCain on foreign policy.

The Obama campaign on Saturday morning released "Zero" (subscription), a spot that calls out McCain for not referencing the middle class a single time in the 90-minute forum. "McCain doesn’t get it. Barack Obama does," the announcer proclaims before the ad cuts to footage from the debate. "The fundamentals of the economy have to be measured by whether or not the middle class is getting a fair shake," Obama insists in one clip, while in another he ties McCain's tax plan to the economic policies of the current administration.

McCain was quick out of the gate with an ad of his own. "Promise" (subscription), released Saturday, pits the Democratic ticket against itself, contrasting Obama's vote against a bill to fund troops in Iraq and Afghanistan with statements Joe Biden made during the primary campaign criticizing that position.

Continue reading Ads Pick Up Where Debate Left Off

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Thursday, September 25, 2008 1:00 PM

As part of his recently announced campaign suspension, John McCain is pulling all of his TV ads off-air. But, as when he dismissed McCain's request to postpone Friday's debate, Barack Obama is again refusing to follow his rival's lead. The Illinois senator is not only leaving his ads up; he released a new 60-second spot this morning -- the second ad in as many weeks in which Obama speaks directly to viewers about what he would do as president to help set the economy back on the right track.

In "A Stronger Economy" (subscription), Obama begins by criticizing the deregulatory policies that he says led to the crisis. "Instead of prosperity trickling down," as the administration has been promising for the last eight years, he says, "pain has trickled up." He maintains: "We need to change direction. Now." Obama then outlines the main points of his policy prescription, vowing to put middle-class families ahead of Wall Street CEO's.

While polls have shown mixed assessments of Obama's ability to handle the economy relative to McCain's, his steady rise in head-to-head numbers over the past two weeks -- while the economy has been in the national spotlight -- is undeniable.

Barack Obama, John McCain, Television Ad

Tuesday, September 23, 2008 5:31 PM

Barack Obama is taking advantage of Newsweek's recent report that John McCain and his wife, Cindy, own 13 cars, some of which are not American-made.

The Illinois senator launched a new TV ad (subscription) in Michigan this afternoon referencing the McCains' foreign-made cars to suggest that the Arizona senator does not support the American auto industry -- an issue that could resonate in this battleground state, where the RealClearPolitics poll average shows Obama ahead by just 5 points.

The ad opens with footage of an interview in which McCain vows: "I've bought American literally all my life." "Oh, really?" an announcer jeers. In addition to owning a foreign-made Lexus, a Volkswagen and a Honda Sedan, the ad claims that McCain opposed giving federal loans to the auto industry. Text onscreen charges that the Arizona senator is "Not Talking Straight To Michigan," and the announcer urges voters: "Don't believe John McCain when he says he'll help Michigan."

To be fair, the Newsweek report states that McCain's name actually appears on only one of the 13 car titles -- that of a 2004 Cadillac -- while the rest are registered to his wife's name or her business. The Obamas, meanwhile, share a 2008 Ford Escape hybrid.

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Tuesday, September 23, 2008 4:00 PM

Barack Obama is taking his economic message to another voting bloc today, releasing Spanish-language TV and radio ads slamming John McCain's fiscal policy in four battleground states -- Colorado, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico -- where the Latino vote could determine which candidate walks away with a lot of electoral votes.

Both the TV and radio spots use clips of McCain saying last week, in the midst of a collapse on Wall Street, that the "fundamentals of our economy are strong." "McCain and the Republicans have no clue about the struggles of the middle class and working people," an announcer charges in the Florida radio version (subscription), citing statistics on the state's rising unemployment and foreclosure rates.

The Nevada version of the TV spot makes an appeal to "mothers and fathers who have lost their jobs," "families at risk of losing their homes," and "every child out of the 45 million people who have no health care," arguing that although the "prosperity of our families" should be the president's greatest "obligation," that's something "McCain and the Republicans don't want to bother themselves with."

Barack Obama, John McCain, Television Ad

Tuesday, September 23, 2008 12:00 PM

Another day, another pair of dueling "ads" from Barack Obama and John McCain. While McCain attempted to change the subject Monday, releasing a spot about Obama's origins in the shady world of Chicago politics, both candidates once again focused their attacks on economic issues today.

Obama's "Bermuda" (subscription), reportedly running on national cable, suggests that, during a 2007 visit to this island getaway, McCain was up to more than sunbathing and snorkeling. McCain "pledged to protect tax breaks for American corporations that hide their profits offshore," an announcer alleges. What's more, he continues, McCain later received $50,000 from "grateful insurance company executives and their lobbyists who benefit from the tax scheme."

McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds was quick to retort. "Barack Obama's ad cleverly ignores two key facts: His own campaign headquarters is provided by a company based in Bermuda and is guilty of the very same off-shore benefits he's attacking," he said in a statement. "Obama has a stronger record of hypocrisy than he does making change in Washington."

Meanwhile, in McCain's "Mum" (subscription), also released this morning, the GOP nominee claims that Obama and his "liberal allies" are "mum on the market crisis." The ad cites a Washington Times article from Friday reporting that Obama opted not to give details of his recovery plan and a Bloomberg story from last week quoting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., as saying that no one, including Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Congress, "knows what to do."

The ad employs one of the staple messages put forth by the McCain campaign -- that Obama doesn't have the experience needed to lead in a crisis, while McCain and his "congressional allies" do. The announcer also emphasizes McCain's reputation as a reformer, contending that he will impose "tough rules on Wall Street."

It's worth noting that, since Reid's comment on Sept. 17, there has been a whole host of developments on Wall Street and Capitol Hill. The $700 billion bailout plan proposed by Paulson, for instance, wasn't introduced until the weekend.

-- Amy Harder contributed reporting to this post.

Barack Obama, John McCain, Television Ad

Monday, September 22, 2008 3:48 PM

John McCain is striking Barack Obama on his home turf in Chicago, the latest attack on a candidate's associates in the presidential race.

In "Chicago Machine" (subscription), released this morning, the McCain camp links Obama to a handful of prominent -- and controversial -- Illinois political figures. It begins with Obama's own words: "In terms of my toughness -- look, first of all, I come from Chicago." An announcer then says Obama was "born of the corrupt Chicago political machine." The ad goes on to tie four figures to Obama: William Daley, former commerce secretary and now a lobbyist; convicted felon Tony Rezko; Illinois Senate President Emil Jones (Obama's "political godfather," the ad claims); and Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Citing various reports calling their ethics into question, the ad concludes, "With friends like that, Obama is not ready to lead."

The Obama camp quickly responded by pointing out reports published today that question McCain campaign manager Rick Davis' ties to mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. "It's no coincidence that on the very day newspapers reported that John McCain's campaign manager was paid $2 million to lobby against tighter regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the McCain campaign would launch this false, gratuitous attack," Obama spokesman Bill Burton said.

In a morning conference call with reporters, however, Davis adamantly denied any questionable lobbying activities on behalf of the lenders. He said Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were just two of the nearly 20 organizations that contributed to the advocacy group of which he was president. He added that it's been three years since he's had any contact with anyone with the group.

The tactic is nothing new for either candidate in this race. Obama has gone directly or indirectly after conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh and various McCain surrogates including former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm; McCain has done the same with Obama's ties to former Fannie Mae chiefs Jim Johnson and Franklin Raines.

Steve Schmidt, a McCain-Palin senior adviser, said the media has shown the Obama camp preferential treatment. "You may not read this on the front page of the New York Times, but the Obama campaign is surrounded by people who have worked in the lobbyist industry," Schmidt said in Monday's conference call. He cited Hunter Biden, the son of Obama running mate Joe Biden, for lobbying work on behalf of the "credit card and banking interests." A spokesman for Biden has already refuted that claim. Schmidt also took aim at Obama's chief adviser, David Axelrod, and his possible lobbyist background.

"Chicago Machine" will air nationwide and focus on the handful of states that are emerging as battlegrounds, Davis said in the conference. Responding to a question of whether this will "actually air," considering all the talk surrounding "phantom ads" -- ads that are officially released but don't see any substantial air time -- Davis responded, "this is a real buy," implying a difference with some other ads from the camp.

Barack Obama, Radio Ad, Third-Party Ad

Monday, September 22, 2008 3:30 PM

The race between Barack Obama and John McCain is neck-and-neck in the bellwether state of Ohio, according to the latest polls. But Obama is getting a boost in the state among a traditional Republican voting bloc -- evangelical Christians -- from the Matthew 25 Network, a group that claims to be the first Christian PAC of its kind.

Today, Matthew 25 is launching the first of a planned series of ads supporting Obama on Christian radio stations throughout the Buckeye State. The new spot (subscription) features former Rep. Tony Hall of Dayton, a self-described pro-life Democrat discussing how his Christian faith is leading him to vote for Obama.

Hall describes the hardships plaguing many Ohio families and claims that "we need a president who sees those who are hurting and cares for the least of these." He highlights the fact that "as a child, Barack knew hard times, too," and he stresses Obama's own faith: "As a Christian, Barack believes that God calls us to care for those who are in need. He has spent his life doing just that."

Hall told reporters today that what most impressed him about Obama was his decision to forgo a high-paying job when he graduated from college and move to Chicago to help neighborhoods struggling from plant closings. "I think he’ll be tremendous for the poor people in this country," Hall said.

Mara Vanderslice, the group's executive director, emphasized the timeliness of this ad, as it asks Christian voters to consider the larger implications of the recent economic crisis. Bart Campolo, a minister involved with Matthew 25, said that, as the government undertakes the biggest restructuring of the economic sector in nearly a decade, the American people should make sure that we have someone in the White House "who will restructure the country in a way that works for everyone," not just Wall Street.

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Monday, September 22, 2008 1:15 PM

Barack Obama is continuing his onslaught on John McCain's kitchen table platform -- and his efforts to reach out to working women, as a new Lifetime Television survey shows this demographic shifting dramatically in McCain's favor after the Sarah Palin pick.

This morning, Obama launched "Article" (subscription), linking McCain's support for banking deregulation to his health care plan. "We've seen what Bush-McCain policies have done to our economy," the announcer charges as logos from Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and Fannie Mae flash onscreen. "Now John McCain wants to do the same to our health care." Citing an article [PDF] McCain recently published in Contingencies Magazine, the ad claims that McCain would move to "reduce oversight of the health insurance industry," a plan which the ad quotes the Boston Globe as calling "a prescription for disaster."

Meanwhile, "Need Education" (subscription), released at the end of last week, builds on a previous ad (subscription) from the Illinois senator on McCain's refusal to support legislation requiring equal pay for men and women. The spot features Lilly Ledbetter, a longtime Goodyear employee who filed suit claiming that she had been paid 40 percent less than her male counterparts. Though Ledbetter lost her appeal [PDF] before the Supreme Court, her case spurred Congress to take up legislation mandating equal pay. The measure failed to pass a Senate vote in April.

In the ad, Ledbetter calls out McCain for opposing the law, says "he dismissed the wage gap," and quotes him as saying that women merely “need education and training" instead. Arguing that her family suffered as a result of her lost wages, Ledbetter concludes: "On the economy, it’s John McCain who needs an education."

Barack Obama, Foreign Policy, John McCain, Television Ad

Friday, September 19, 2008 4:53 PM

John McCain countered Barack Obama's tough Spanish-language TV ad this week with one of his own today.

Two days after Obama came out with "Dos Caras," McCain countered with "Obama-Chavez" (subscription), which juxtaposes footage of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez denouncing the U.S. with Obama's comments last year that he would meet with Chavez soon after becoming president.

The ad shows Chavez at a rally, reproaching the U.S. with some profanity bleeped out. In translation: "Go to h*ll, you filthy Yankees!" and "We, you filthy Yankees, know that we are resolute to be free, no matter what happens, and at any cost!" The announcer asks viewers: "Do you believe we should talk with Chavez?... In November, you decide." At a CNN/YouTube primary debate in July 2007, Obama said he would meet "without preconditions" and within the first year of his administration with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Cuba, North Korea and Venezuela -- a remark he has taken heat for ever since.

McCain is coming off an international gaffe of his own; he recently said he would not promise to meet with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero, going so far as to lump him in with Chavez and other Latin American leaders known for their traditionally hostile relationships with the U.S.

"Obama-Chavez" is running in the battleground state of Florida. That also happens to be where Obama is touring today -- and where the Illinois senator took a salvo from Republican Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart over "Dos Caras," which links McCain to conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh and President Bush's "failed policies."

"It is offensive and dishonest for Barack Obama to lie about John McCain's record on immigration and years of support for the Hispanic community when it was Barack Obama himself who voted for 'poison pill' amendments that killed the effort at immigration reform," Diaz-Balart said in a statement. "Instead of making false ads with baseless attacks, Barack Obama should be apologizing to the Latino community."

Barack Obama, John McCain, Television Ad

Friday, September 19, 2008 2:30 PM

In a week when kitchen table issues have returned to the forefront of the presidential campaign, Barack Obama and John McCain are each battling to prove that they would be the right man to lead the country in a time of economic uncertainty. On the airwaves, that has translated into a series of shots at one another's economic plans. Thursday afternoon and Friday morning saw a shift in messages, as both candidates went after the other's economic advisers.

Obama's "Who Advises" (subscription) targets McCain's connections with former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm. Meanwhile, two spots out by McCain aim to cast doubt on his opponent's economic judgment by linking him to former Fannie Mae chiefs Jim Johnson (subscription) and Franklin Raines (subscription).

This campaign season seems to have shed an unusual spotlight on campaign surrogates, from Samantha Powers' "monster" flap to Geraldine Ferraro's implication that Obama was winning the Democratic primaries because he is black.

But do voters really care about these peripheral figures? According to McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, they do. Speaking with Fox News' Sean Hannity on Wednesday, Palin said that, in determining their vote, Americans are "looking at voting records, and they're looking at allegiances."

Continue reading Economic Surrogate Smackdown

Barack Obama, John McCain, Television Ad

Thursday, September 18, 2008 6:34 PM

Another day closer to Nov. 4 means another ad -- or two or three -- released on behalf of John McCain and Barack Obama. But whether those ads actually make it on the air as legitimate commercials rather than part of a newscast is a different story. Evan Tracey, head of TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group, a firm that tracks political advertising, spoke with NationalJournal.com about these so-called "phantom" ads. Edited excerpts follow.

Q: Can you briefly describe the ad strategies that have developed with both presidential campaigns?

Tracey: It's a unique dynamic to this presidential race. With the 24/7 content needs of the 24/7 media, between the blogs and cable news, the campaigns have done a very good job of exploiting this in the sense that they can release what are supposed to be TV commercials that are really sort of video press releases that they can then feed into this beast that’s the 24/7 media. They become amplified by the press so they don't interfere with the campaign's real message strategy.... The ad gets shown for free, and you have partisan commentary on either side of the ads in the form of talking heads, pundits and, in some cases, journalists....
The candidates obviously aren't going to be in debates every day. This is the way they can have their debates. It's the political equivalent of dueling banjos.

Q: Did this sort of ad tactic happen in the 2004 presidential election?

Tracey: There were certainly examples of this in 2004, but not to the extent we have now. What the campaigns have gotten very savvy about is the whole timing aspect of this. If you’ve noticed, most of the new "ads" are produced and released in the mid-afternoons of a particular day. We all know what’s happening in the mid-afternoons -- the cable news shows are planning what they’re going to talk about that evening. In essence, [the cable news channels say], "OK, great, we can show these new ads, that kills five minutes, check that off the list." And that carries over into the morning news shows. In some respects, it's written about and blogged about.... This is a way for campaigns to look like they're on top of the issues of the day.

Q: Can you apply this ad tactic specifically to the campaigns of McCain and Obama?

Tracey: If you look at the ads that they're actually placing, both the Obama and McCain campaigns are running thousands of commercials a day, and usually 95 percent of those rotations are two spots. When they're releasing new spots every day, what they're not doing is taking down the spots that they know are working with voters.
It's really a two-tiered election. In this top tier that these video press releases, phantom ads, are basically going into is this cable-news-watching, opinion-leader-journalist-type audience that's churning and amplifying [the ads]. What's most interesting is a lot of the ads themselves are fairly hard-hitting or have very sharp elbows. Those were the kinds of messages that used to be buried in direct mail; maybe niche-radio-type spots. They weren't made into TV ads....
What they're running, putting a lot of money behind in their rotations, are not necessarily those of hard-hitting ads.

Continue reading Q&A: Campaigns Capitalize on 24/7 News Cycle With 'Phony' Ads

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Thursday, September 18, 2008 5:20 PM

John McCain has been catching a lot of heat for several of his recent TV ads, with even the likes of Karl Rove acknowledging that the McCain spots don't always pass the truth test. But Barack Obama has launched some controversial ads of his own recently, including "Dos Caras" (subscription), a new Spanish-language spot -- running in Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, with plans for a buy in Florida -- that links McCain to radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh's rhetoric.

Flashing quotes from Limbaugh on screen -- "...stupid and unskilled Mexicans" and "you shut your mouth or you get out" -- an announcer laments that Republicans have "made" Latinos "feel marginalized in this country we love so much." He then goes on to accuse McCain and the GOP of having "two faces" when it comes to immigration policy: "One that tells lies just to get our vote. And another, even worse, that continues the failed policies of George Bush that put special interests ahead of working families."

But as ABC's Jake Tapper points out, Limbaugh's quotes are taken out of context in the spot. Moreover, McCain and Limbaugh have hardly been of one mind when it comes to immigration policy. The conservative talk show host lambasted the bill the Arizona senator put forth earlier this year and was one of McCain's most vociferous critics during the Republican primary race.

There's no doubt that the tone of advertising coming out of both the presidential candidates' camps has taken a negative turn over the past several weeks. Contrary to what most talking heads have been suggesting, however, Obama and not McCain ran a larger percentage of attack ads in the week following the Republican National Convention, according to a new study [PDF] from the Wisconsin Ad Project. Whereas 56 percent of McCain's spots could be characterized as negative, according to the report, over three-fourths of Obama's ads had some not-so-nice things to say about his rival.

Sarah Niebler of the Wisconsin Ad Project said that this is the first week the group has examined in which Obama has outpaced McCain in attack ads. "Ultimately we think this campaign is about Obama. People know a lot about McCain... so it seems more likely that as the campaign continues, Obama will run ads about Obama. McCain will also run ads about Obama. But this week, for whatever strategic reason... there was a shift," she explained.

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Thursday, September 18, 2008 3:42 PM

All eyes are on Wall Street this week, and Barack Obama has a slew of economy-related ads out in battleground states. He is also using the opportunity to appeal to a group that has shown signs of straying from his camp with John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate: working women.

"Burden" (subscription) paints McCain's record on women's issues as questionable. Pointing out that working women average just 77 cents to the dollar that men make, the announcer claims that McCain has voted against legislation making equal pay mandatory, saying that "women just need more 'education and training.'" She asserts, "It's one more thing John McCain doesn't get about our economy."

The McCain campaign responded to the ad, which is running in Virginia and on national cable, by pointing out that on average, McCain pays female staffers in his Senate office better than Obama does.

Obama's fiscal fulminations don't stop there. "Sold Us Out" (subscription), running in Pennsylvania, describes a plant closing in which workers were fired, then rehired to pack up the equipment and ship it to China. "Washington sold them out, with the help of people like John McCain," the announcer charges, citing McCain's votes for legislation giving tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas.

A Michigan TV ad, previously unreleased to the media, implies that McCain is willing to risk Americans' "Social Security" (subscription) savings in a time of a "Crisis On Wall Street" by supporting President Bush's calls for privatization. "The Bush-McCain privatization plan: Can you really afford more of the same?" the ad asks viewers.

Wolverine State viewers are also seeing an unreleased spot criticizing McCain's energy policy. Opening with a shot of a Middle Eastern oil field, "Alternative" (subscription) says: "We must end our addiction to foreign oil." But McCain has repeatedly voted against tax incentives for alternative sources of fuel, the announcer proclaims, instead supporting tax breaks for Big Oil. "If you have different priorities," the spot says in closing, "there’s an alternative to John McCain."

Barack Obama, Economy, John McCain, Television Ad

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 3:20 PM

Amid financial turmoil on Wall Street, Barack Obama released a rare two-minute spot today that delves into his proposals for reviving the economy, and John McCain released two 30-second ads Tuesday afternoon and this morning that focus on the GOP nominee's plans to reform Wall Street. Both candidates speak directly to viewers in these ads to reassure them that Wall Street and Washington -- not voters -- are to blame for the ailing economy.

"Wall Street's been rocked as banks closed and markets tumbled," Obama says in "Plan For Change" (subscription). "Six hundred thousand Americans have lost their jobs since January. Paychecks are flat and home values are falling. It's hard to pay for gas and groceries." The Illinois senator goes on to outline his plans to revive the economy, touching on everything from investing in renewable energy to ending the Iraq war. The ad doesn't mention McCain, but Obama does denounce the "petty attacks and distractions" that have "consumed" the election thus far.

In the more hard-hitting of McCain's two ads, "Foundation" (subscription), the Arizona senator speaks directly to "American workers," calling them "the best in the world." In a stark contrast to Obama's ad, McCain explicitly calls out his opponent, saying Obama's "only solutions" to the economic crisis "are talk and taxes." The GOP nominee goes on to assert that he'll "reform Wall Street and fix Washington," and concludes by implicitly referencing his military record: "I've taken on tougher guys than this before."

"Foundation," released early this morning, comes fresh on the heels of "Enough Is Enough" (subscription), which was unveiled Tuesday afternoon. This spot reiterates much the same message as another ad, "Crisis," that the campaign released Monday in direct response to the collapse of the financial firm Lehman Brothers. "I'll meet this financial crisis head on," McCain says in "Enough Is Enough." "Reform Wall Street. New rules for fairness and honesty. I won't tolerate a system that puts you and your family at risk."

McCain's trio of ads -- all explicitly underscoring the severity of the financial crisis -- illustrate the nominee's "turnabout" since initially reacting to the crisis on Monday by repeating his earlier claim that "the fundamentals of the economy are strong."

Barack Obama, Economy, John McCain, Television Ad

Tuesday, September 16, 2008 12:15 PM

With Wall Street still reeling from news of Lehman Brothers' failure and Merrill Lynch's sale to Bank of America, Barack Obama is seizing on comments made that same morning by rival John McCain. The only sound in "Fundamentals" (subscription) is ominous music and a familiar line that McCain delivered again Monday in Florida: "Our economy, I think, still -- the fundamentals of our economy are strong."

The 30-second spot -- running in "key states," per the campaign -- flashes various messages underscoring the severity of the financial crisis: "Lehman Brothers collapses," "markets in turmoil," "job losses at 605,000 for the year" and "foreclosures at 9,800 a day." It goes on to air footage of McCain at the Florida rally and asks on screen: "How can John McCain fix our economy if he doesn't understand it's broken?" The ad concludes with the Democrats' signature attack strategy: showing a photo of McCain with the unpopular President Bush.

Continue reading Obama Hammers McCain On Strength Of Fundamentals

Barack Obama, Television Ad, Third-Party Ad

Monday, September 15, 2008 6:05 PM

Barack Obama is continuing his on-air offensive, launching another negative ad about John McCain's lobbyist ties over the weekend and using scathing editorials today to suggest that McCain isn't fighting fair. The Illinois senator is also getting some help from a labor union that endorsed him in the primaries: The Service Employees International Union announced that it will spend $2 million running an anti-McCain spot in several battleground states.

In "His Administration" (subscription), Obama builds on a TV spot released last week about the former lobbyists on McCain's campaign team, alleging that the same Washington insiders would run a McCain White House. Pouncing on the recent announcement that Bill Timmons -- whom the ad refers to as "the consummate insider" -- would lead McCain's presidential transition team, an announcer claims that with McCain at the helm, "corporate special interests" will be "rigging the system against hardworking Americans, pushing failed Bush economics."

"Honor" (subscription), meanwhile, goes further than any other Obama ad in striking at McCain's character. It does so with quotes from editorials and op-eds, possibly attempting to shield Obama himself from accusations of being excessively negative. But the ad's message is clear: McCain is running a "disgraceful, dishonorable campaign." The spot opens with video of McCain from his 2000 campaign, pledging not to "take the low road to the highest office in this land," but it claims that he's now "running 'the sleaziest ads ever.'" The announcer concludes that McCain has resorted to "deception" because it is the only strategy "he has left."

The McCain camp responded by calling Obama's latest ad "a desperate effort to move away from talking about his thin, but alarming record on the issues," and said, "It isn’t going to reform Washington or strengthen our economy."

Continue reading Harsh Words For McCain's Tactics

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Friday, September 12, 2008 3:43 PM

After a week in which John McCain's camp has seized the momentum and set the tone in the presidential race, Barack Obama's has announced it is fighting back. Part of that effort is a barrage of new TV ads painting McCain as out of touch and a continuation of disruptive, George Bush-style politics.

"Still" (subscription) juxtaposes images of a disco ball, an antiquated computer and a Rubik's Cube with video of McCain in a pair of large horn-rimmed glasses, suggesting that the GOP nominee is stuck in 1982 -- the year he came to Washington. "Things have changed in the last 26 years. But McCain hasn't," an announcer says, pointing out that the Arizona senator admits to not knowing how to use a computer or e-mail. More to the point, the ad continues, he "still doesn't understand the economy," as demonstrated by his tax policy. As an image of Bush appears, the announcer concludes: "After one president who was out of touch, we just can't afford more of the same."

The Obama camp also put out a TV spot (subscription) attacking McCain's "maverick" image and his record as an opponent of special interests. Opening with footage of McCain claiming that "it’s over for the special interests," the spot points out that "seven of McCain’s top advisers are lobbyists." If this is who's running his campaign, an announcer says, "who do you think will run his White House?"

Continue reading Obama Shows His Tough Side

Barack Obama, John McCain, Television Ad, Third-Party Ad

Friday, September 12, 2008 11:00 AM

Planned Parenthood unveiled an ad today in response to John McCain's "Education," released Tuesday, which claims that Barack Obama supports "comprehensive sex education" for kindergartners.

"Sexual Abuse" (subscription) is running in the same markets -- Pittsburgh and Denver -- where "Education" is reportedly running. The 30-second spot argues that McCain is "twisting the facts and attacking Senator Obama" for supporting a bill that both Planned Parenthood and the Obama campaign say is aimed at curbing sexual abuse. "Doesn't McCain want our children to protect themselves from sex offenders?" the announcer asks. The spot also cites a Washington Post article from Thursday that disputed many of the claims made in "Education."

Planned Parenthood spokesman Tait Sye said the organization hopes to both "set the record straight" on McCain's "misleading" ad and tell voters that "McCain will say anything to get elected." The group sent a letter to McCain's camp Thursday asking him to pull the ad because of factual errors. Receiving no response, the group ran its own ad, Sye said.

When asked about how the dynamics of the election have changed since the entry of Sarah Palin, Sye brushed off her influence. "The vast majority of Americans don't share her positions," including her staunch opposition to abortion even in cases of rape and incest, Sye said. Despite polls showing key voter blocs, especially white women, trending toward the GOP after the conventions, he said that Americans simply need to become more informed about Palin. The "McCain-Palin ticket is out of touch with issues that are important to women," he said.

This is the group's second ad of the presidential campaign. Its previous spot was also in direct response to the McCain campaign: "Out Of Touch," released in mid-July, rebuked McCain for awkwardly answering a reporter's question on insurance companies covering Viagra but not birth control.

Barack Obama, John McCain, Television Ad

Wednesday, September 10, 2008 3:30 PM

Between the political bickering over pigs and lipstick, John McCain's campaign released another ad today, "Fact Check" (subscription), which accuses Barack Obama of attempting to smear Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

The ad draws upon a Wall Street Journal op-ed that says the Obama campaign has "airdropped a mini-army of 30 lawyers, investigators and opposition researchers into" Alaska to "dig into her record and background." The female announcer goes on to charge that "as Obama drops in the polls, he'll try to destroy her."

So, who's the newest cosmetic and/or animal to join the presidential election? Wolves. In a throwback to a George W. Bush ad from 2004, a full five seconds of the 30-second spot is devoted solely to footage of wolves -- representing Obama's "mini-army" -- roaming a forest, in, presumably, Alaska's wilderness.

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Tuesday, September 9, 2008 3:15 PM

With the John McCain-Sarah Palin ticket enjoying a post-convention bounce, Barack Obama is grappling with the question of how to take on the Republican duo. His campaign was quick to respond to McCain's "Original Mavericks" ad Monday, immediately releasing a spot of its own challenging his opponents' claims that they represent a break from their party.

"No Maverick" (subscription) hits directly and forcefully at both McCain and Palin. The Arizona senator is "hardly a maverick," the announcer says, when he has supported President Bush 90 percent of the time and his campaign team includes several Washington lobbyists. The ad goes on to cite the Anchorage Daily News to argue that, contrary to Palin's claims, she "was for the bridge to nowhere before she was against it" -- a point that the Wall Street Journal corroborates today. The announcer suggests that both McCain and Palin are guilty of "lying about their records" and thus merely represent "more of the same" old-style politics.

In a spot released today, however, Obama ignores Palin, choosing instead to focus on the top of the GOP ticket. "What Kind" (subscription) knocks McCain's record on education and accuses him of putting special interests ahead of children. Advancing the notion that McCain is out of touch with voters, the announcer tells viewers that "Obama understands what it takes" to maintain a strong economy -- good education -- while McCain, on the other hand, has gone so far as to propose "abolishing the Department of Education." As Bush materializes on screen next to McCain, the announcer concludes with the now-familiar Obama mantra: "We can't afford more of the same."

Barack Obama, John McCain, Radio Ad, Television Ad

Thursday, September 4, 2008 2:27 AM

Both presidential nominees released ads Wednesday drawing attention to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, albeit in different ways. John McCain gives props to his running mate in "Alaska Maverick." And a new radio ad from Barack Obama chastises McCain for opposing abortion rights, a topic that has taken on new currency lately -- first when McCain alarmed his base with a remark that he wouldn't rule out an abortion rights supporter as his running mate, and now with McCain’s addition of Palin, a staunch abortion opponent.

McCain's spot heralds Palin's reformer reputation by highlighting media reports from the Wall Street Journal (which dubbed the duo "A Reform Ticket") and her home state's Anchorage Daily News (calling Palin the "Joan of Arc of Alaska politics"), among others. The ad contrasts that with coverage of Obama that suggests he'll always vote along party lines. From the January National Journal survey that ranked him the most liberal senator to a series of Senate votes benefiting Big Oil, the McCain camp reiterates that his change reputation is nothing but "empty words." It’s worth noting, however, that all the headlines applauding Palin are dated after the Aug. 29 VP announcement, suggesting that before she was thrust into the national spotlight, the national media didn’t see compelling reason to highlight her or her "reformer" reputation.

Obama's radio ad features a Planned Parenthood nurse urging women not to vote for McCain because he supports overturning Roe v. Wade. "John McCain's out of touch with women today. McCain wants to take away our right to choose," the nurse says. "That's what women need to understand. That's how high the stakes are." The spot replays a clip of McCain confirming that he supports a constitutional amendment banning all abortions.

The Obama camp said the ad was released before McCain announced his pick. Nonetheless, with Hillary Rodham Clinton’s supporters potentially in play and with Palin receiving attention as the first woman on a presidential ticket since Geraldine Ferraro in 1984, abortion is making a comeback as a hot-button political topic.

Barack Obama, John McCain, Television Ad

Tuesday, September 2, 2008 9:00 PM

It didn't take the presidential campaigns long to put the bipartisan unity engendered by Hurricane Gustav behind them.

The Republicans today are aiming to resume their regular convention schedule, albeit in a shifted format. That means fair game and open season: Last week, John McCain aired a fresh ad every day of the Democrats’ convention, and on Saturday, Barack Obama returned fire with three new ones.

"Expensive Plans," an ad released jointly by McCain's camp and the Republican National Committee, opens with the staple celebrity reference and links Obama to "out-of-touch congressional leaders" who have "expensive plans." Images of big-name Senate Democrats like Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nev., Charles Schumer, N.Y., and Christopher Dodd, Conn., flash across the screen. "Billions in new government spending. Years of deficits. No balanced budgets. And painful tax increases on working American families," the announcer says. "They’re ready to tax, ready to spend, but not ready to lead."

Continue reading Camps Get Back To Business With Dueling Ads

Barack Obama, John McCain

Sunday, August 31, 2008 11:08 PM

As the Republicans gear up for their national convention, slated to start Monday in an abbreviated format, Hurricane Gustav has compelled both parties to drop partisan walls for the time being and focus on the well-being of the Gulf Coast states.

Will the storm also prompt the campaigns to suspend or modify their ad attack strategy? John McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, addressed the issue in a press conference Sunday. "Right now, we had some ads that were being purchased as a course of normal activities during this week," Davis said. "And we're evaluating whether or not we have those go up or whether we can even get them down. So, we are looking at that as a campaign."

A spokesman for Barack Obama said the Democrat's campaign is monitoring the situation but has not changed its ad strategy yet.

If the hurricane does trigger a cease-fire between the campaigns, it will certainly be a change of pace after both released a flurry of ads within the last week. The McCain camp released an ad every day of the Democrats' convention in Denver, hitting Obama on everything from national security to harsh criticism from Hillary Rodham Clinton. The Obama campaign didn't waste any time leading up to the Republicans' events in the Twin Cities, releasing three spots on Saturday, including a hard-hitting one responding to McCain's newly picked running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Barack Obama, John McCain, Television Ad

Sunday, August 31, 2008 12:06 AM

To the Obama campaign, John McCain has had a running mate beside him long before Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin -- President Bush.

In a new ad released today -- pre-emptively stealing some thunder from the Republicans' convention in the Twin Cities this week -- Barack Obama charges that there will be "no change" with McCain as president, regardless of Palin's addition to his ticket.

"Well, he's made his choice. But for the rest of us, there's still no change," an announcer says over footage of Palin and McCain together. The spot goes on to criticize McCain on the economy, Iraq, and, of course, Bush: McCain "votes with George Bush 90 percent of the time," the announcer laments. The ad concludes by saying, "While this may be his running mate [showing Palin on the screen], America knows this [switching to Bush] is John McCain's agenda. And we can't afford four more years of the same."

There has been some controversy over how the Obama campaign has reacted to McCain's veep choice. While Obama and his running mate, Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., cordially welcomed Palin into the race, campaign spokesman Bill Burton had harsher words about her, which Obama has since distanced himself from. This spot, however, was carefully crafted not to mention Palin by name or criticize her. The focus, and the Democrats' attack strategy as a whole, remains on McCain and an unpopular Republican Party. It also subtly gnaws at one of the reasons many believe McCain picked Palin: her reputation as a reformer, not a Washington insider. Asserting that she won't make a difference as his running mate implies that she doesn't have what it takes -- be it experience or an "outsider" mindset -- to be vice president.

While this spot has triggered the most talk, Obama's campaign released two other ads Saturday in local buys addressing specific issues.

In an ad running in Detroit, an announcer says that while McCain has turned his back on the ailing auto industry, Obama supports measures that helps "revitalize" the city and its auto workers.

Biden takes center stage in another ad running in Northeast Pennsylvania. "Scranton" recounts what Biden has learned about working hard while growing up there and draws parallels between his childhood and Obama's. "Barack Obama learned the same lessons while being raised by a single mom and his grandparents -- responsibility, determination, respect, to stand up for the dignity of all our families," Biden proclaims. "So it's good to be coming home -- and bringing home a friend."

Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton, John McCain, Television Ad, Third-Party Ad

Tuesday, August 26, 2008 12:55 PM

Hillary Rodham Clinton takes center stage in Denver tonight for her speech at the Democratic National Convention. But as Democrats scramble to project a message of party unity, Republicans are also putting the New York senator front and center -- in a series of new attack ads intended to keep the focus on Democratic divisions.

On Monday, John McCain's camp released "Debra," in which former Clinton delegate Debra Bartoshevich endorses the Arizona senator. "I respect his maverick and independent streak, and now he's the one with the experience and judgment," Bartoshevich says. "A lot of Democrats will vote McCain. It's OK, really!"

The Wisconsin Democratic Party rescinded Bartoshevich's delegate status in July after she publicly stated that she would vote for McCain if Barack Obama won the nomination over Clinton.

In another negative spot released Tuesday morning, the McCain camp explicitly borrows from Clinton's infamous "3 a.m." ad released during the Democratic primary campaign. McCain's version uses the same stock footage and voice-over as the Clinton spot and suggests that the New York senator was right to question Obama's readiness to lead. The ad also shows video of nuclear missiles and Islamic radicals to reiterate the Republicans' claim that the next president will take office at a dangerous point in history and must be ready to protect America.

Continue reading McCain, RNC Pursue Clinton Strategy

Barack Obama, John McCain, Television Ad

Saturday, August 23, 2008 7:24 PM

While the city of Denver, media organizations and Washington lawmakers and insiders have been busy preparing for the Democratic convention, the two presidential campaigns have been busy fighting an on-air ad battle. In the last 48 hours, the candidates have released a combined eight ads -- five from Barack Obama and three from John McCain, including a hard-hitting spot released soon after Obama's running-mate announcement of Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., early this morning.

The ad shows Biden expressing his support for McCain and casting doubt on Obama's ability to lead the country. The footage is from an early presidential debate where Biden said he stood by a statement he made that he didn’t think Obama is ready to lead the country. The spot closes with footage of an interview where Biden said he supports McCain: "I would be honored to run with or against John McCain, because I think the country would be better off," Biden says.

The McCain campaign also released this statement by spokesman Ben Porritt: "There has been no harsher critic of Barack Obama’s lack of experience than Joe Biden. Biden has denounced Barack Obama’s poor foreign policy judgment and has strongly argued in his own words what Americans are quickly realizing -- that Barack Obama is not ready to be President.”

Indeed, gone are the days of positive ads -- all the other spots the campaigns have released in the last two days have gone on the attack as well. McCain is continuing the "celebrity" theme, casting doubt on Obama's ability to lead the country, while the Illinois senator is hammering home a comment McCain made that he didn't know how many homes he owned.

Here's a rundown of all the ads.

Continue reading Biden, Houses Star In Volley Of Attacks

Barack Obama, John McCain, Radio Ad, Television Ad

Wednesday, August 20, 2008 4:15 PM

After a series of recent John McCain ads calling Barack Obama's tax plan "a recipe for economic disaster," Obama returned fire today with "Three Times" (subscription), arguing that McCain's economic plan will only benefit big businesses, not hard-working Americans.

An announcer claims that McCain's tax plan will give $200 million in tax breaks to big businesses and $4 million to oil companies, and will reward companies that export jobs while "100 million Americans get no tax relief at all." He then cites two newspaper sources that say Obama's plan will cut middle-class taxes three times as much as McCain's would. "Can we really afford more of the same?" he asks, linking McCain to the Bush administration.

Meanwhile, the Arizona senator released a radio ad today, "Millions" (subscription), charging that Obama plans to spend $863 billion in taxpayer dollars on new government programs. An announcer opens the ad with what has become a signature theme: "Celebrities like to spend their millions. Barack Obama is no different. Only it's your money he wants to spend." The ad claims that Obama's plans will ultimately raise taxes for families on everything from income to electric bills to life savings: "Ready to tax. Ready to spend. Not ready to lead."

Both "Three Times" and "Millions" are running in Ohio, Colorado, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia and other battlegrounds.

Barack Obama, John McCain, Television Ad

Monday, August 18, 2008 10:28 AM

The on-air back-and-forth between Barack Obama and John McCain intensified Friday, as the Illinois senator continued to pound his opponent over a past business deal that led to job losses in Ohio and the McCain team shot back with another derisive ad about Obama's celebrity status.

Obama had already released a radio ad (subscription) in Ohio on Aug. 8 highlighting McCain's connection to DHL, the foreign-owned shipping company, which recently eliminated 8,200 jobs in the state.

On Friday, he followed up with "Punch" (subscription), a TV ad that features comments from Ohio residents distressed over the job losses. "If DHL -- I mean, if something happens, it's going to be like a ghost town," one woman frets. An announcer charges: "In Washington, John McCain helped pave the way for foreign-owned DHL to take over an American shipping company," eventually leading to the job cuts. He notes that McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, was a "lead lobbyist" for the company. "It's tough times when it's a foreign entity coming in and sucker-punching us," says an Ohio man who lost his job.

The McCain campaign was quick to respond, launching its own TV spot Friday afternoon. "Maybe" (subscription) cites a FactCheck.org analysis that calls Obama's allegations "misleading." "Maybe the applause is going to his head," an announcer remarks, as the same familiar footage of Obama in front of cheering crowds in Berlin plays on screen. He insists that "it's Obama’s taxes that will hurt Ohio families." And hitting once again upon the "inexperienced" argument, he concludes: "That's the real Obama: ready to tax, not ready to lead."

With its 20 electoral votes, Ohio is viewed as a crucial swing state for both candidates, and recent polling shows Obama and McCain in a dead heat.

Barack Obama, Radio Ad

Friday, August 15, 2008 9:55 AM

Recent polls show Barack Obama with a slim lead over John McCain in the battleground state of New Mexico, but the state's Republican Party is doing its part to fight the rising tide of Obamania. In a new radio ad, the GOP revives Obama's "bitter" comments and highlights a more recent statement he made about car tires to portray the Democratic candidate as out of touch with New Mexico voters.

"Hot Air Solutions" (subscription) begins by proclaiming the enormity of the energy crisis, then asks: "What's Barack Obama's energy solution? Barack Obama wants you to inflate you car tires. That's right. Inflate your tires." The spot then hits Obama, once again, for remarks made to a group of San Francisco donors in April, in which he claimed that people from small towns "cling to guns or religion" because they're "bitter." Together, the ad suggests, these two instances demonstrate that Obama doesn't really understand New Mexicans.

Obama did in fact say recently that pumping up tires and getting regular tune-ups would help drivers save money on gasoline. But contrary to the ad's claim, it is not his only proposed solution for high energy prices. The Illinois senator is spending millions of dollars on a TV ad, running during the Olympics, that lays out his energy plan in some detail.

But the overall picture that Republicans are seeking to paint of Obama is one of an inexperienced elitist. "He is not ready to lead on some of the most important issues to Americans," said New Mexico GOP communications director Shira Rawlinson. "Hot Air Solutions" is running in several small towns in New Mexico, targeting rural voters who might be particularly sensitive to Obama's "bitter" remark.

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Thursday, August 14, 2008 2:54 PM

Barack Obama has released a second TV ad for Olympics coverage, a positive spot focusing on his plan to fix the economy. "Three Bedroom Ranch" (subscription) opens with images of a construction crew building a house from the ground up as an announcer explains that rebuilding the economy "begins with a plan. A plan to build. A plan to put hardworking Americans first." The spot emphasizes that Obama will "put the middle class ahead of corporate interests" by giving tax breaks to middle-class families instead of companies that outsource jobs.

There is still much concern in Democratic circles that Obama is failing to win over white, blue-collar workers, hence the effort to speak to the middle class in this and other recent ads. Commentators have pointed out, moreover, that Obama is perhaps striking the more appropriate Olympic note with this ad and "Hands." While John McCain's spots have been mostly attack ads, Obama's have focused on more positive messages, which could resonate better with viewers during this feel-good event.

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Thursday, August 14, 2008 10:51 AM

Barack Obama continues a streak of negative advertising today with a new TV spot slamming John McCain. But rather than fight another battle on McCain's "celebrity" terms, the Illinois senator attempts to move the debate back to topics that are more favorable to Democrats -- the economy and President Bush's record.

"Book" (subscription) presents a faux textbook on McCain's economic policies, with chapter titles claiming the Arizona senator "Supported Bush 95%" of the time and would keep spending "$10 Billion A Month In Iraq." The message of the ad is twofold: that a McCain presidency would be a continuation of Bush's; and that the U.S. economy is hurting because the country is spending too much in Iraq, while the Iraqi government is enjoying a $79 billion surplus due to oil profits.

The spot is running in 16 battleground states: Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Barack Obama, Radio Ad, Television Ad

Tuesday, August 12, 2008 2:15 PM

Two weeks’ worth of ads skewering Barack Obama as “the biggest celebrity in the world” seem to have gotten under the Illinois senator’s skin. Today he seeks to turn the tables on John McCain with a new TV ad calling the Arizona senator "Washington’s biggest celebrity." Those are worse, the ad implies, because they use their positions of power to win favors for the bigwigs and special interests they schmooze with.

"Embrace" (subscription) fuses the "celebrity" theme that has dominated the last couple weeks of campaign coverage with Obama’s message that McCain is an integral part of a broken system and would represent a continuation of the Bush presidency. The spot plays up McCain’s “decades” in Washington while showing him in the spotlight on "Saturday Night Live," "The View" and elsewhere. An announcer says that "as Washington embraced him, John McCain hugged right back," accompanied by video of McCain hugging President Bush.

The spot links McCain with what the Obama campaign has portrayed as the most nefarious aspects of Washington politics -- lobbyists, drug and oil companies -- while claiming that he would do nothing for average families. The announcer suggests that McCain has flip-flopped on policy, "lurching to the right, then the left" -- "the old Washington dance." Returning to another familiar theme, the ad concludes by accusing McCain of playing "the same old Washington games” with voters.

The fact that the Obama campaign feels the need to respond to McCain's "celebrity" ads, however, demonstrates that McCain might have landed a punch. While Obama has been trying to make this election a referendum on Bush and, by extension, the Republican Party, McCain has been successful over the last several weeks in making Obama the focus of media and public scrutiny. "If the celebrity issue were not hurting them, they would have ignored it," GOP strategist Terry Holt told the Associated Press.

Continue reading Obama Throws Celebrity Counter-Punch

Barack Obama, John McCain

Monday, August 11, 2008 4:15 PM

Recent editions of "National Journal On Air" have featured some back-and-forth from the presidential campaigns themselves on the confrontational tone of recent ads.

Barack Obama spokesman Bill Burton, on the John McCain ads "Painful" and "Family":

"First of all, [the McCain campaign's] not actually putting any money behind these spots. Second of all, I don't know which polls you're looking at, but for the most part the race is in the exact same spot it has been. And this is after John McCain has put up a half-dozen spots that just lie all throughout."

(Complete interview)

John McCain adviser Nancy Pfotenhauer, on his ad, "Celeb":

"It points directly to the fact that at this time when Americans are facing higher energy prices, [Obama] is against offshore drilling and he is in favor of taxes on energy sources and increasing taxes other places as well. So, it talks about policy in that ad. It just acknowledges the political situation that we are in, where we're running against a celebrity."

(Complete interview)

Barack Obama, John McCain, Television Ad

Friday, August 8, 2008 3:30 PM

Things turned nasty on the campaign trail this week, as Barack Obama and John McCain traded barbs and accusations, particularly on the topic of energy, and each camp released a series of negative TV ads.

Obama has been quiet about his attack spots, often not releasing details to the media, but two ads put out by the campaign popped up online this week.

"National Priorities" (subscription) slams McCain for being part of a system in Washington that has ignored the country's energy crisis for decades. McCain's "been in Washington for 26 years. And as gas prices soared and dependence on oil exploded, McCain was voting against alternative energy, against higher mileage standards," an announcer charges. Obama, on other hand, offers a "real plan" and innovative solutions to create alternative forms of energy.

The Obama camp also responded this week to a McCain ad that touted the Arizona senator's "maverick" credentials. "Original" (subscription) shows a 2003 Fox News clip of McCain claiming that he has voted with President Bush "over 90 percent of the time." An announcer asks, "The original maverick or just more of the same?" as a photo of McCain and Bush arm-in-arm flashes on screen.

The McCain camp shot back today with its third ad of the week, again casting Obama as a shallow celebrity. In "Painful" (subscription), which will be cycled into the 11-state buy of the earlier "Family" and will run during the Olympics, once again casts Obama as a shallow celebrity.

Continue reading McCain & Obama On The Dark Side

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Friday, August 8, 2008 11:17 AM

The Obama campaign released a new ad this morning that it will run during the Olympics on the NBC Universal channels broadcasting the Games.

"Hands" (subscription) encourages Americans to build a green economy and presents Obama as a leader with the vision to take the country in a different direction. "The hands that built this nation can build a new economy," the announcer proclaims.

Both Obama and John McCain are spending several million dollars to run TV ads during the next two weeks of Olympics coverage.

Barack Obama, John McCain, Television Ad

Thursday, August 7, 2008 4:25 PM

The world will be watching as athletes from around the world face off in two weeks worth of competitions beginning Friday in Beijing. But American viewers will witness another spectacle, as well -- the presidential campaign.

Rather than take any time off from the furious schedule of the election season, Barack Obama and John McCain will continue to broadcast their message to voters around the country, as both have purchased advertising time on the network of NBC Universal channels that will be broadcasting the Games -- including NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, USA Network, Oxygen and Telemundo.

Obama announced his ad buy several weeks ago, but the McCain camp one-upped the Illinois senator on Tuesday, announcing he would top Obama's $5 million purchase by an additional $1 million. The spots will run on network and cable channels between Friday, when the Games begin, and August 25, the day before the Democratic National Convention begins in Denver.

The ad buys are unusual in that, in recent years, campaigns have focused their resources on certain battleground states or cable television channels. Advertising Age, which broke the news of McCain's Olympics purchase, reports that these purchases "are the first substantial buys of national network TV by any presidential candidate in 12 years."

Neither campaign would comment on the decision to run ads during the Olympics or release any information about what kind of spots they will be airing.

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Monday, August 4, 2008 3:30 PM

Barack Obama kicked off a week devoted to his energy plan with the release of a negative ad going after John McCain's relationship with Big Oil.

As the American public continues to reel from $4 gasoline, both parties are trying to turn the energy issue into a political weapon. Obama announced this weekend that he would reluctantly support the expansion of offshore domestic oil drilling -- a measure McCain has been pushing -- as part of a bipartisan compromise on energy issues. Critics are labeling this as another in a series of Obama flip-flops, but the Illinois senator is presenting it as evidence that he is willing to be flexible and work with Republicans to pass a package of effective legislation on an issue that has so far stymied both houses of Congress.

But such cooperative, bipartisan sentiments are less evident in Obama's new TV spot. "Pocket" (subscription) accuses McCain of taking money from Big Oil while supporting tax cuts for oil companies that are already making record profits.

Continue reading McCain In The 'Pocket' Of Big Oil?

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Wednesday, July 30, 2008 1:27 PM

Reviews of John McCain's most recent TV advertisements have been anything but glowing. Today's Washington Post challenges the premise of his "Troops" (subscription) spot, while the New York Times editorial page chides the Republican candidate for going negative. Meanwhile, Barack Obama's campaign has released a response (subscription) to McCain's "Pump" (subscription) ad, which suggests that Obama is responsible for rising gasoline prices.

"Have you seen John McCain’s TV ad?" an announcer asks. In case viewers haven't, the most accusatory clip of the McCain spot plays before the announcer says incredulously: "John McCain is blaming Barack Obama for gas prices." The spot labels McCain's tactics as part of "the same old politics" before launching into a defense of Obama's energy plan and directing viewers to his Web site for more details.

The spot is less acerbic than another one (subscription) Obama released early in the month responding to an ad from the Republican National Committee, and perhaps reflects an attempt on Obama's part to stay above the fray. So far, Obama's strategy in the general election has looked very similar to his primary tactics: Don't attack your opponent unless they strike first. In the primary, he attempted to repel negative ads from Hillary Rodham Clinton by dismissing them as "old politics."

According to a new report [PDF] released today by the Wisconsin Ad Project, the GOP has indeed been the source of more vitriol on the airwaves in the presidential race. Ninety percent of the ads released by the Obama campaign from June 3 through July 26 were positive spots, according to the group, whereas one-third of McCain's were negative. The RNC has also spent about $3.6 million on presidential ads, all of which characterize Obama negatively.

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Tuesday, July 29, 2008 5:00 PM

Every election cycle raises the same fundamental question about young voters: Will they matter this time around? While turnout among this bloc was up in this year's primaries -- 6.5 million people between the ages of 18 and 30 voted, nearly doubling results from the 2000 election -- experts debate whether this will be the year of the youth vote.

Barack Obama's own youth and outsider message seem to resonate with those under 30, and he holds a strong lead there, 61 percent to John McCain's 31 percent, according to Gallup. But partisans from both sides are expanding efforts to reach out to young voters, and the GOP is by no means ceding this group to the Illinois senator.

MTV has created a new opening for those trying to reach young people this year by overturning its 27-year ban on political advertising. Jeannie Kedas, executive vice president of communications for MTV, said that, "given that the youth vote has been increasingly engaged in the election this year and has played a growing role," the network decided it was time to take a second look at its advertising policy.

The network also thought it would complement their Choose or Lose initiative, a get-out-the-vote effort the network has sponsored every election year since 1992. According to Kedas, the network will accept ads from candidates and party committees and will consider third-party ads on a case-by-case basis.

Ads from two outside groups hit the air recently; both took Obama as their subject, although that was about the only thing they had in common politically.

Continue reading New Front Opens In Battle For Young Voters

Barack Obama, John McCain, Television Ad

Monday, July 28, 2008 1:45 PM

John McCain isn't letting up on Barack Obama. His new ad, released Saturday, blasts his Democratic rival for not visiting wounded U.S. troops while overseas last week. The ad received a great deal of buzz over the weekend on various talk shows, and both camps rushed in to explain or elaborate.

"He made time to go to the gym, but canceled a visit with wounded troops," an announcer says in "Troops" (subscription). The 30-second ad refers to Obama's decision to cancel a visit to a U.S. military hospital in Germany and cites reports that the senator made time to exercise at a hotel gym earlier that day, before his speech in Berlin. The campaign said it was because the Pentagon told him his campaign staff couldn't go with him and that the visit might be viewed as politically motivated. "Seems the Pentagon wouldn't allow him to bring cameras," the announcer says, making a not-so-subtle jab at the amount of press coverage Obama has been getting; the ad concludes, "John McCain is always there for our troops." While Obama didn’t visit, he did make phone calls to wounded troops at the hospital.

Response to McCain's ad was quick. Sens. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., who accompanied Obama on his trip to the Middle East, appeared on CBS' "Face The Nation" on Sunday. Hagel said McCain is "treading on some very thin ground here when he impugns motives and when we start to get into 'You're less patriotic than me, I'm more patriotic.'" Reed defended Obama's dedication to U.S. troops, citing numerous trips the three senators made in the Middle East to visit them. "That is a completely distorted and, I think, inappropriate advertisement," Reed said.

Continue reading Gym Trumps Troops, Ad Says

Barack Obama, John McCain, Radio Ad

Friday, July 25, 2008 3:30 PM

While Barack Obama was delivering his much-anticipated speech in Berlin on Thursday, the Republican National Committee was busy making sure that voters back home got a different message about the Illinois senator. As a counterpoint to Obama's stop in Germany, the RNC launched a radio ad (subscription) in Berlin, Penn., Berlin, Wis., and Berlin, N.H., accusing him of putting politics ahead of America's troops.

Today, timed with Obama's visit to France, the ad is also running in Paris, Mo., Paris, Mich., and Paris, Maine; and Saturday, when Obama is in Great Britain, it will air in London, Ohio, and London, W.Va.

“As Barack Obama is globe-trotting across Europe, voters back in Berlin, Paris, and London, USA want to know why he voted against funding our military and refuses to admit that he was wrong on the troop surge," RNC spokeswoman Amber Wilkerson said.

Continue reading While Barack's Away...

Barack Obama, Radio Ad

Thursday, July 24, 2008 3:40 PM

Barack Obama has established a firm lead over John McCain among Latino voters in recent polling, but the Illinois senator is not letting up in his efforts to court them. He has recently attended events of three national Latino groups -- the National Council of La Raza, the League of United Latin American Citizens and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials -- and on Wednesday his campaign launched its first Spanish-language ad of the general election.

"Nuestro Propio Camino" (subscription), a radio spot, relates Obama's background to the experience of the Hispanic community. "Some people have power and connections, but most of us have to make our own way through life," the ad begins. An announcer tells how Obama was raised by his mother and his grandparents because his father left and how the candidate worked his way through college. "Obama never forgot his roots," the announcer continues, working “with churches to help families get job training and after-school care for their children."

Continue reading Some Love For Latinos

Barack Obama, John McCain

Monday, July 21, 2008 3:40 PM

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Perhaps that’s the idea John McCain is borrowing as he joins virtually every segment of the media -- reporters, pundits and talk-show hosts galore -- in focusing on Barack Obama. Of course, McCain will only follow up to a point -- he’s blasting Obama on everything from Iraq to gasoline prices in a pair of new ads, one of which was released on the eve of Obama’s highly anticipated trip to the Middle East and Europe.

On Friday, the GOP candidate's campaign released "Troop Funding" (subscription), an ad that accuses Obama of flip-flopping on the Iraq war, and followed it up with another spot released today, "Pump" (subscription), that blames high gasoline prices on Obama's unwillingness to drill domestically. While the McCain campaign has released ads before that implicitly attack Obama, these are the first that mention his Democratic rival by name.

Continue reading Barrage On Barack

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Tuesday, July 15, 2008 1:20 PM

Coinciding with his speech today on Iraq and national security, Barack Obama is releasing a new TV ad discussing his vision of America's role on the international stage.

In "America's Leadership" (subscription), Obama expresses his intent to "restore America's leadership in the world," striking a note reminiscent of President Reagan's "shining city on a hill" message in the 1980s. "We are a beacon of light around the world," he tells a small group of voters in a town hall meeting. "At least that's what we can be again. That's what we should be again."

He goes on to identify what he considers to be the "single most important national security threat that we face" -- "nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists." "What I did was reach out to Senator Dick Lugar, a Republican, to help lock down loose nuclear weapons," Obama says, emphasizing his ability to work across the aisle on a topic he is passionate about.

The spot will run in the 18 states previously targeted for Obama's first set of general election TV ads, including Florida, Iowa, Indiana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Barack Obama, Radio Ad

Monday, July 14, 2008 3:25 PM

In what is beginning to look like a pattern, Barack Obama is again shooting back at John McCain and the GOP after the Republican National Committee released what the Obama camp considers a false ad.

An RNC radio spot, which features the voice of a teacher, alleges that Obama voted to raise taxes on Americans making "as little as $32,000" and is "acting like a typical politician" by "saying one thing and doing another."

In a sharp response, Obama released his own radio ad Friday in two important swing states -- Virginia and Ohio. In "Makin' Stuff Up" (subscription), a man and a woman accuse McCain of using the George Bush/Karl Rove playbook to fight dirty. "This is shameful. He's just makin' stuff up," the man charges, before pointing to independent Web site FactCheck.org, which has disputed the RNC's claims about Obama's tax policies. In reality, the man contends, "Obama's plan cuts taxes on the middle class and won't raise taxes on anybody making less than $250,000 a year."

McCain, on the other hand, "wants billions in new corporate tax breaks" but has "no way to pay for it," according to the Obama spot. "Sounds like George Bush all over again," the woman muses, while the man adds: "Guess that's why they say: John McCain -- McSame as Bush."

The spot continues what has been Obama's main strategy (subscription) for contrasting himself with McCain: link the Arizona senator to the Bush White House and its increasingly unpopular policies.

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Tuesday, July 8, 2008 4:00 PM

Barack Obama is striking back against a TV ad (subscription) from the Republican National Committee that accuses him of offering "no new solutions" to the nation's energy situation, launching his own spot today. "New Energy" (subscription), which details the "Obama Energy Plan," will run in the same four swing states where the RNC ad is on-air -- Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The spot seeks to discredit John McCain on energy issues by tying him to President Bush. "McCain and Bush support a drilling plan that won't supply a drop of oil for seven years," an announcer charges, as video of the two men hugging each other appears on screen. The ad emphasizes that McCain has been in Washington for 26 years and has voted with Bush "95 percent of the time," while suggesting that the Arizona senator "will give more tax breaks to Big Oil" if elected.

Obama, on the other hand, "will make energy independence an urgent priority," the announcer proclaims, in contrast to the RNC's suggestion that the Illinois senator is a "No" man when it comes to fixing the problem of rising energy costs. The spot goes on to detail Obama's proposals, including a $1,000 tax break "to help families as we break the grip of foreign oil."

Both candidates are focusing on the economy this week, seeking to portray themselves as more in touch with the needs and anxieties of working-class Americans amid continued grim fiscal news.

Barack Obama, Economy, John McCain, Television Ad

Monday, July 7, 2008 11:50 AM

The Republican National Committee began running a TV spot on energy over the weekend in four key battleground states, making this the first ad either party has released since the general election campaign began in earnest this summer.

"Balance" (subscription), running in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio, touts John McCain's "balanced" energy plan while attacking Barack Obama for offering "no new solutions."

"Record gas prices, climate in crisis -- John McCain says solve it now with a balanced plan: alternative energy, conservation, suspending the gas tax and more production here at home," the ad's narrator says. Ironically, the RNC praises McCain in the ad for bucking the party. "He's pushing his own party to face climate change," the narrator says, in contrast to Obama, who she says offers "just the party line" on energy.

Continue reading Let The Party (Ads) Begin

Barack Obama, Radio Ad

Thursday, July 3, 2008 3:12 PM

Barack Obama has done more than any recent Democratic presidential candidate to reach out to religious voters, just this week announcing that, as president, he would expand faith-based initiatives and actively encourage religious groups to get more involved in social campaigns. And yet Obama is facing an onslaught of viral attacks questioning his Christian values and accusing him of being a Muslim.

A new Christian political action committee, the Matthew 25 Network, took up Obama's cause with a radio ad released in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Wednesday. Obama was in town that day to discuss patriotism and service to country, but the city is also an evangelical hub, home to Focus on the Family leader James Dobson, a conservative evangelical who has forcefully criticized Obama in recent weeks.

Matthew 25, led by John Kerry's director of religious outreach, Mara Vanderslice, announced in June that it intended to reach out to particular religious communities that it believes Obama must do well with to win in November, including Catholics, moderate evangelicals, Hispanic Catholics and Protestants. This is the group's first ad buy.

Continue reading Courting Christians

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Tuesday, July 1, 2008 11:40 AM

As Barack Obama embarked on a week-long patriotism tour, aimed at fighting a sustained whisper campaign questioning his love of country, his campaign released its second TV ad of the general election Monday afternoon. "Dignity" (subscription) touches on many of the biographical details emphasized in his previous ad, "Country I Love" (subscription), but builds on the theme of the candidate's dedication to working-class Americans.

A narrator touts the Illinois senator's modest background and up-by-the-bootstraps story as black-and-white images of a young Obama flash on screen. "He worked his way through college and Harvard Law," then "turned down big money offers" to help workers and their families in "neighborhoods stung by job loss." The narrator then lays out a series of Obama's initiatives in the Illinois state Senate and Capitol Hill aimed at helping hardworking citizens: Obama "fought for workers’ rights," "passed a law to move people from welfare to work, slashed the rolls by 80 percent" and "passed tax cuts for workers, health care for kids."

As president, the narrator continues, Obama plans to punish companies that outsource jobs and reward those that create more jobs at home. Finally, showing video footage of the candidate touring a factory and joking around with a group of women in an industrial kitchen, the spot concludes: Obama will "never forget the dignity that comes from work."

Continue reading Working For The Workers

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Thursday, June 19, 2008 4:13 PM

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama is up with his first TV ad of the general election today. The spot, "Country I Love," is a reintroduction to the candidate after the long primary campaign. It focuses on patriotism and seeks to strike back at charges of elitism by painting him as a regular, hard-working American with traditional values.

The spot begins by discussing Obama's family and upbringing, being "raised by a single mom and my grandparents." Against a background of soothing guitar music, the Illinois senator stresses that they were not wealthy, but "they taught me values straight from the Kansas heartland," including "self-reliance" and "love of country."

Continue reading Meet Barack

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Thursday, May 29, 2008 10:45 AM

Barack Obama is hoping to wrap up the Democratic nomination next Tuesday with wins in South Dakota and Montana. The Illinois senator is also reaching out to voters in Puerto Rico, who head to the polls Sunday, although Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to win the island primary.

Obama continues his outreach to blue-collar voters with a new TV ad debuting this week in Montana. In "Achieve" (subscription), which features excerpts from a May 19 speech in Montana, Obama addresses the economic challenges facing working-class Americans and asserts that his candidacy is "about you and your struggles, and helping you achieve the American dream." Referencing the chance to seal his victory on Tuesday, Obama concludes by saying, "On June 3rd, we will not just win Montana -- we're going to change this country, and we're going to change the world."

In a "Message" (subscription) to Puerto Ricans (which was also recorded in Spanish), Obama empathizes with island residents and acknowledges that "Puerto Rico has suffered. You have a right to a better future." He lays out his plan for stimulating job growth, improving education and offering affordable health care options for the island's natives. "This is our moment," Obama says, speaking directly into the camera to deliver his final argument. "It would be an honor to have your vote and confidence."

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Tuesday, May 27, 2008 12:40 PM

Although Barack Obama has largely turned his attention to the general election, campaigning this week in Western battleground states, three contests still remain in the Democratic primary race, and the campaign is seeking to ensure victory in a state largely considered safe for the Illinois senator -- South Dakota. Obama released two new TV ads in the Mount Rushmore State on Monday, including one featuring former Senate Majority Leader and campaign co-chairman Tom Daschle (D).

Daschle, one of Obama's most important surrogates, who is frequently mentioned as a top potential pick for vice president or chief of staff, makes an appeal to the rural and blue-collar voters who dominate South Dakota's demographic make-up in a new TV spot, "Straight" (subscription). He claims that Obama "understands the squeeze" being placed upon South Dakotans, who "are suffering with the cost of gas and groceries." Fighting back against charges of elitism that have dogged Obama in recent months, Daschle affirms that the Illinois senator is "rooted in the same values as most South Dakotans" and "has an understanding of America -- rural and urban alike." He touts the endorsements of fellow South Dakota Democrats Sen. Tim Johnson and Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, and he praises Obama's willingness to "talk straight" with the American people, something "we've needed... in this country for a long time."

Continue reading Daschle's Devotion

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Monday, May 19, 2008 4:40 PM

Barack Obama is making an on-air appeal to voters in Puerto Rico, who head to the polls on Sunday, June 1. "He Understands Us" (subscription), airing in both English and Spanish, portrays Obama as sympathetic to the needs of Puerto Ricans and highlights several tenets of "the Obama plan."

The spot begins with an announcer noting that Obama was himself "born on an island," and that he "understands the worries of parents on our island." The ad shows footage of an Obama speech in which he promises to "be a president who finally makes health care affordable" and "ends this war in Iraq and finally brings our troops home." But the policy issue hit hardest in the ad is education. "The time has come to reform our education system," Obama declares, as text on screen indicates that the candidate will fight for "Puerto Rico’s fair share of federal education dollars."

Obama is perceived as having trouble winning over Hispanic voters, but the vote in Puerto Rico represents an opportunity to make up some ground with this group. Michelle Obama campaigned on the island last week, though so far the Illinois senator has no plans to go there himself.

Barack Obama, Radio Ad

Thursday, May 15, 2008 3:00 PM

With questions persisting about Barack Obama's ability to win over working-class voters, particularly whites, Obama has embarked on a campaign this week to reach out to blue-collar Americans, re-donning the all-important American flag lapel pin and, as the New York Times points out, "sprinkling his speeches with references to God and country" to "reassure Democratic voters about his values." Obama is also up with two new radio ads in Kentucky -- home to many of the voters in question -- in which local Democratic leaders specifically reference Obama's Christian faith and love for his country.

Kentucky Rep. Ben Chandler (subscription) and Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo (subscription) star in the new spots, launched Wednesday, portraying Obama as someone Kentucky voters can relate to. "Once you get to know him, he’ll be like family to us," Mongiardo says in his ad. Both men talk about Obama's upbringing -- raised by a single mom, his grandfather who "served in Patton's army," and his grandmother who worked in a bomber factory" during World War II. "They didn't have much money, but they gave Barack a thirst for education, an abiding love for America, and a belief that we all have a stake in each other," Chandler says.

Both men stress the fact that Obama is a "strong Christian" who began his professional life working with churches "helping communities left behind when local plants closed." And they both touch on his economic plan, which calls for ending tax breaks for companies that outsource and providing tax breaks for the middle class.

Continue reading Gimme That Old-Time Religion

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Tuesday, May 13, 2008 4:00 PM

MoveOn.org, which has endorsed Barack Obama, announced the winner of its "Obama In 30 Seconds" ad contest on Monday. The liberal group will spend $200,000 airing the winning ad, "Obamacan" (subscription), on national cable stations and on network TV in Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Denver, all expected to be important markets in the general election. MoveOn says it will roll out the ad tomorrow, and that it will run for one week after that.

MoveOn put out the call for average citizens to create a 30-second spot about Obama and submit it for a vote by the organization's members, as well as a panel of 24 celebrity judges -- including actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, musician Moby, director Oliver Stone and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. According to the group, there were over 1,100 entries.

MoveOn spokeswoman Ilyse Hogue said that once the organization began to see a groundswell of support for Obama, they decided to give their members a way to participate directly in the campaign. She added, "We believe ads made by real people appeal to voters across the country as much, if not more than, ads made by paid political consultants."

The winning ad features Air Force veteran John Weiler, who says that although he's "been a Republican since before I could actually vote," he's supporting Obama. "We need somebody in the White House that is strong," Weiler says, as patriotic music plays and military medals are shown on screen. "We need somebody that’s going to represent the Left and the Right, the Democrat and the Republican -- everybody."

Continue reading And The Winner Is...

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Wednesday, May 7, 2008 3:20 PM

Even before the Indiana and North Carolina results were in, Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton were looking ahead to the five states and one territory yet to vote in the protracted nomination contest. Putting his fundraising advantage to work (Clinton announced today that she has lent her campaign $6.4 million over the past month, while Obama continues to report strong numbers), the Illinois senator beat his rival to the airwaves in all six contests, going up with TV spots in West Virginia, Oregon, Kentucky, Puerto Rico, South Dakota and Montana by April 26.

West Virginia is the next to vote, on May 13, and Clinton is considered the favorite. But Obama is focusing on economic issues in hopes of attracting some of the blue-collar voters that make up a huge percentage of the state's electorate. A topic that dominated the debate in Indiana is spilling over into West Virginia -- what to do about gas prices. In "Nothing's Changed," a spot that debuted in Pennsylvania, Obama goes after oil companies for gouging customers at the pump and promises to change the system if elected.

Continue reading Six To Go

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Tuesday, May 6, 2008 1:55 PM

Hoosiers and Tar Heels head to the polls today with the same mix of messages voters in other hotly contested primary states received from Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton: positive ads followed by several days of back-and-forth attacks, ending with closing arguments that make only veiled references to the opponent.

Since Friday, Obama has released four new ads in the two states set to vote today, with slightly different versions of some running in Indiana and North Carolina. Three of the four are contrast spots slamming Clinton for negative campaigning, and for supporting John McCain's gas tax holiday proposal.

"Pennies," released Friday, repeats Obama's accusation that Clinton's support for the gas tax holiday represents "political pandering." "It's an election-year gimmick saving Hoosiers just pennies a day," the Indiana version states, citing newspaper articles and data from Americans For Transportation Mobility. "Boost" takes up the same topic, arguing in the North Carolina version that Clinton's strongest surrogate in the state, Gov. Mike Easley, disagrees with the proposal. Referencing a Washington Post article, an announcer also claims that even Clinton's aides "admit it won't do much for you -- but would help her politically." "Here's the choice" as these ads lay it out: "Clinton gimmicks that help big oil, or Barack Obama -- a real energy plan and a $1,000 middle-class tax cut to help families truly pay the bills."

Continue reading Closing The Case

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Thursday, May 1, 2008 1:14 PM

A legitimate policy debate has arisen between the two Democratic presidential candidates this week: whether or not to support John McCain's plan for a gas tax holiday this summer. While Hillary Rodham Clinton has jumped on the Straight Talk Express for this particular issue, Barack Obama is the only candidate to reject the proposal, calling it a "Washington gimmick."

Today the Obama camp is out with a new TV ad, a response to Clinton's "Trouble" ad that launched yesterday, in which she jabs Obama for his opposition to her foreclosure freeze and the gas tax plan. Showing footage of a stump speech given by Obama in North Carolina this week, "Truth" suggests that the McCain/Clinton proposal is "typical of how Washington works" and a "short-term quick fix," while he is the candidate who will bring long-term change to the country's oil addiction.

"I'm here to tell you the truth," Obama declares in the ad, airing in Indiana and North Carolina. "We could suspend the gas tax for six months," but individuals would only save about $25, "or half a tank of gas." He proposes "going after oil companies" for "price gouging," while focusing on the larger problem of the nation's overall oil consumption. "That's the real honest answer to how we're going to solve this problem," not political posturing, he says.

Continue reading Fact Check On Fuel

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Wednesday, April 30, 2008 2:27 PM

With just six days before voters head to the polls in Indiana and North Carolina, Barack Obama seems to have refocused his campaign efforts within the last 24 hours. From his strong repudiation of Rev. Jeremiah Wright on Tuesday to multiple endorsements Wednesday and the release of four TV spots in the upcoming primary states, the Obama campaign has been busy trying to change the media narrative and get back to his message of change.

Obama is up with two new ads in Indiana today. "Next Door" reminds voters that the senator is from the adjacent state of Illinois and thus, the ad suggests, understands Hoosiers.

"All across Indiana and my home state next door, folks know we desperately need change," Obama says, listing a series of economic challenges facing the country. "But the truth is, to fix these things, we've got to do more than change parties in the White House," he says, suggesting that a vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton would not be a vote for change. Addressing the cynics, Obama acknowledges, "Some people say we can't change Washington." But he ends on an empowering note: "I approve this message to say: On Tuesday, Indiana, you can."

The campaign also launched "Inspiring" (subscription) in the Hoosier State today. The spot, which ran nationally in January, features testimony from one of Obama's professors at Harvard law, a Republican colleague from the Illinois state senate and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and it opens and closes with clips from Obama's address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

Continue reading Red, White And Blue-Collar

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Tuesday, April 29, 2008 5:14 PM

Barack Obama is the target of yet another negative ad today, but this one is not coming from Republicans. The American Leadership Project, a 527 group financed almost exclusively by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a union which has endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton, announced today that it is spending $700,000 over the next week to run a TV spot in Indiana calling Obama's economic policy into question.

"Jobs" features ominous music and newspaper headlines that criticize the Illinois senator's economic platform. "The Associated Press reported that Obama's plan to clean up financial markets had 'no specifics,' " an announcer says. "And the Washington Post wrote that what Obama would actually do remains 'a mystery in too many areas.' " In fact, the Post article cited in the ad is an op-ed piece by columnist David Ignatius.

The ad attacks a soft spot for the Obama campaign, as he's struggled to win over working-class white voters. To address that, Obama has retooled his stump speech to focus on the economy while campaigning in Indiana, and he has significantly increased his advertising in the state ahead of the May 6 primary.

Continue reading A Fiscal Focus In Indiana

Barack Obama, House Race, Television Ad

Monday, April 28, 2008 4:30 PM

Barack Obama is becoming a more familiar face for TV viewers in Mississippi and Louisiana, but not by choice; instead, the Illinois senator is the focal point of several new commercials being run by Republican groups ahead of special elections to be held in both states in early May.

Whereas Hillary Rodham Clinton was once considered the Democrat that Republicans would most like to see at the top of the ticket in November, Obama's "bitter" comments and his association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright have helped make him more vulnerable to attack from the right. Now Republicans are using Obama's missteps to target downballot candidates.

In Mississippi's First District, Southaven Mayor Greg Davis (R) is facing off against Democratic businessman Travis Childers in a runoff to replace Rep. Roger Wicker (R), who moved to the Senate after Trent Lott's resignation. While the seat had been considered safe for the GOP, Childers shocked pundits by coming within 400 votes of capturing it in the first round of voting on April 22. Now, the National Republican Congressional Committee and Davis are going on the offense, launching negative ads that link Childers to Obama, John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi.

Continue reading Obama Targeted In Special Elections

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Thursday, April 24, 2008 1:55 PM

The national spotlight continues to shine on North Carolina today over a state Republican Party ad highlighting Barack Obama's relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. But voters in the Tar Heel State haven't been getting just one side of the story; the Obama camp has released several TV ads there ahead of the state's May 6 primary.

"Turn It Off" places Obama in an elementary school classroom, where he talks about the importance of education and parental involvement. "For me the American dream began in a room like this," Obama says, playing up his humble beginnings. "My family didn’t have much money, but education made everything possible."

He goes on to outline "The Obama Plan" for improving education but then moves beyond the typical political message to offer something of a lecture to parents. "The truth is government can’t do it all. As parents we need to turn off the TV, read to our kids, give them that thirst to learn."

Continue reading Obama Teaches Good Parenting

Barack Obama, Governor Race

Wednesday, April 23, 2008 5:00 PM

Perhaps it was only a matter of time before inflammatory video clips of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright found their way into ads attacking Barack Obama. But the North Carolina Republican Party is using the controversial pastor's remarks to hit two unexpected targets -- Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue and state Treasurer Richard Moore -- in addition to Obama.

In an ad set to debut on Monday, one week before North Carolina's primary, the state GOP highlights Obama's relationship with Wright and criticizes Democratic gubernatorial candidates Perdue and Moore for endorsing the Illinois senator. "Extreme" begins with an announcer saying, "For 20 years, Barack Obama sat in his pew listening to his pastor," followed by footage of Wright saying "God damn America" during a sermon. The announcer adds that Perdue and Moore "should know better. [Obama's] just too extreme for North Carolina."

Continue reading State Parties Seize On Obama's Missteps

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Tuesday, April 22, 2008 12:08 PM

Not willing to let Hillary Rodham Clinton have the final word in Pennsylvania with Monday's "Kitchen" spot, Barack Obama released another ad late in the afternoon of the final day before voting began.

Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton accused the Clinton campaign of fear-mongering in its ad, which includes shots of Osama bin Laden and the attack on Pearl Harbor. "We already have a president who plays the politics of fear, and we don't need another," Burton said in a statement Monday. Obama's final Pennsylvania ad takes a similarly pugnacious tone.

"He Has What It Takes" hits implicitly on themes which the Obama campaign has already raised repeatedly in six weeks of increasingly negative campaigning -- Clinton's ties to lobbyists and her vote authorizing the Iraq war -- and an announcer asks, "Who in times of challenge will unite us -- not use fear and calculation to divide us?" The ad ends on a positive note, however, with footage of Obama delivering patriotic lines from his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Monday, April 21, 2008 2:00 PM

Pennsylvania residents witnessed perhaps the most vitriolic days of the Democratic primary race over the weekend, with Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton slapping back and forth at one another in campaign stops across the state.

The Obama campaign has largely steered clear of negative advertising over the course of the primary contest. But, as CBS News reported, over the last several days "Obama has begun to fight fire with fire. In ads, campaign mailings and rhetoric, Obama is getting much tougher as this campaign (perhaps) nears some sort of finish line."

Four new TV ads released since late last week demonstrate the fierce tone that the Obama team has adopted in Pennsylvania, with the Illinois senator hitting Clinton on health care, ties to lobbyists and what he characterizes as her negative tactics.

Continue reading Obama On Offense

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Wednesday, April 16, 2008 3:42 PM

Seeking to put "Bittergate" behind him, Barack Obama released a new TV ad in Pennsylvania on Tuesday suggesting that rival Hillary Rodham Clinton's response to his recent gaffe has been excessive, and that it is part of an old style of politics that voters are rejecting this primary season.

Clinton has indeed mentioned the "bitter" comment on the trail every day this week, and she released what many consider to be the first true attack ad of the Democratic race on Tuesday, featuring Pennsylvanians reacting negatively to the Illinois senator's remarks. Obama said Tuesday that the New York senator's reaction is one of desperation: "This is what we do politically, when we start getting behind in races. We start going on the attack." But with his response ad, Obama hopes to turn the tables on Clinton.

"Represent" (subscription) shows footage of a crowd booing Clinton when she said at an event in Pittsburgh on Monday that she was "disappointed" by Obama's remarks. "There's a reason people are rejecting Hillary Clinton's attacks -- because the same old Washington politics won't lower the price of gas or help our struggling economy," an announcer declares.

Continue reading Obama Battles Back Against "Bittergate"

Barack Obama

Tuesday, April 15, 2008 11:58 AM

Both Democratic presidential campaigns have been eyeing ad space in Pennsylvania's gay print media, which serve a small constituency but one that could play an outsized role in the close-fought contest.

Should either candidate run ads targeting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community during this last week of the primary race, the move would not be unprecedented. According to a Barack Obama campaign official interviewed by Editor & Publisher, Obama earlier this year became the first presidential candidate ever to take out ads in local gay newspapers when he placed a spot [PDF] in four papers leading up to the Ohio and Texas primaries.

Continue reading Attracting A Rainbow Coalition

Barack Obama, Economy, Television Ad

Monday, April 14, 2008 1:21 PM

If tensions between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama were on the rise in Pennsylvania last week, this weekend saw the pot boil over, as the two exchanged some of the most heated rhetoric of the campaign thus far over controversial comments made by Obama at a San Francisco fundraiser.

As Obama publicly scolded Clinton for her attacks on Sunday, Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey appeared on CNN to defend Obama, whom he has endorsed, against charges of elitism. Casey hits that same message in a new TV spot (subscription) released today, reaching out to blue-collar Keystone State voters by portraying Obama as a compassionate person who understands the challenges facing Pennsylvania.

Continue reading Casey Goes To Bat For Obama

Barack Obama, Radio Ad

Friday, April 11, 2008 1:30 PM

Stepping up its response to attacks from Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama's campaign released a radio ad defending his independence from lobbyists and commitment to alternative energy.

The new spot (subscription), which began airing Thursday afternoon, accuses Clinton of playing "political games" while Pennsylvanians face real problems. "An economy in shambles, families struggling, gas prices close to four dollars a gallon," the ad says. "What's Hillary Clinton's answer? Misleading negative ads."

Continue reading Obama's Second Rebuttal

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Thursday, April 10, 2008 10:52 AM

Refusing to cede any ground in an increasingly tense exchange in Pennsylvania, Barack Obama's campaign released a statement on Wednesday responding to Hillary Rodham Clinton's radio ad, which suggests Obama is being dishonest about taking money from oil companies.

"Just like her last tall tale about dodging sniper fire in Bosnia, Senator Clinton has misfired with her latest negative ad," Obama spokesman Hari Sevugan said. "The fact is, Barack Obama takes no money from Washington lobbyists or PACs, while Senator Clinton has taken more than any Democrat or Republican in this race, and that includes oil companies."

Meanwhile, Obama released yet another TV spot in Pennsylvania, his 10th in the run-up to the April 22 primary. "Billy" addresses the entwined relationship between legislators and big industry in Washington and presents the Illinois senator as an outsider who would change the broken system.

Continue reading Obama Won't Back Down

Barack Obama, Television Ad

Wednesday, April 9, 2008 1:30 PM

If Hillary Rodham Clinton was hoping to gain equal footing with Barack Obama on Pennsylvania's airwaves, the Obama camp seems intent on denying her that opportunity. The same day that Clinton's campaign released five spots in the Keystone State, Obama launched four ads of his own.

Two new spots seek to portray the personal side of the candidate and suggest that he possesses a unique ability to inspire others.

Continue reading Obama One-Ups Clinton In The Keystone State

Barack Obama, Economy, Television Ad

Friday, April 4, 2008 12:33 PM

Barack Obama continues to expand his ad buys in Pennsylvania, releasing several TV spots that ran previously in other states. Taking advantage of his ability to outspend his opponent, Hillary Rodham Clinton, his camp is now running at least six different spots in the Keystone State. Here are the latest additions:

"Como Padre": a Spanish-language ad that emphasizes Obama's role as a father and his plans to help America's next generation. (Translated Script)

"For Decades": Placing the candidate in front of a run-down mill, the ad focuses on jobs and other blue-collar issues.

Barack Obama, Economy, Television Ad

Monday, March 31, 2008 10:05 AM

With calls for Hillary Rodham Clinton to drop out of the Democratic primary race multiplying, Barack Obama refused to join the chorus this weekend. Instead, the Illinois senator focused on his plan for economic recovery during his campaign's "Road to Change" tour through Pennsylvania.

Indicating that he expects the campaign to continue at least into May, Obama has released new TV ads in the next three states to weigh in on the Democratic race -- Pennsylvania, Indiana and North Carolina -- all focused on the failing economy and what Obama would do to help middle- and working-class Americans.

Continue reading Obama In It For The Long Haul

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