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Saturday, August 23, 2008

This is apparently a homemade attack ad, but it's quite effective:



(Just a second while I marvel at the idea of "homemade attack ad," which was barely thinkable four years ago, and probably inconceivable eight years ago. Okay, I'm done.)

The ad makes one single point: the lower Bush's approval rating sinks, the more McCain votes for him. I like that it doesn't get sidetracked. It doesn't mention that McCain probably began taking more Administration-friendly positions to please the Republican base as he got closer to the election. It doesn't mention popular bills that McCain failed to vote for or voted against (alternate energy, the Webb GI Bill). It doesn't get into the "McCain has been skipping votes" meme. It does not draw conclusions.

It just asks if you, like McCain, like Bush better now than you did four years ago. Which is an extremely clever way to phrase it, because even among the 27% who still approve of George Bush, I bet you a big chunk are less impressed with him than they were in 2004.

Much of successful politics is drawing a line so that, when people take sides, the majority find themselves on your side of the line. This ad is the graphical counterpart of the picture Democrats keep using of McCain burying his face in Bush's armpit. If the Democrats can equate McCain and Bush, they win; just as, if the Republicans can make the election about who has spent more years in government, McCain wins.

The ad probably runs twice as long as it needs to; I can't think why you couldn't say the same thing in 30 seconds. But it's a web ad, and 60 seconds is not too long for the web.

I feel sure the campaigns are monitoring the web for homebrew ads. Youtube has unleashed the creative genius of America's political fans to make their strategy ideas directly available for candidates who grok the medium. Smart candidates will have contests for the best web ads; winner gets dinner with David Axelrod and David Plouffe, or Karl Rove, according to which side they're on.

I'd be interested to see if there are any similarly effective issue-based ads on the other side... please feel free to put links to the good stuff in the comments. I'm less interested in the outlandish Ayers/Rezko stuff; it's not very clever to put ominous music over some photos and quotes and insinuate that someone is a terrrrrrrist.

UPDATE: Here's McCain's new ad from today. (I can't figure out how to embed CNN video.) This is a terrible ad. It starts with another shot of a big Obama crowd, although you'd have to know that from previous McCain ads. It re-accuses Obama of being a rich celebrity, saying that he doesn't know what things cost, but "we" do.Then it moves on to accuse Obama of wanting to raise taxes on the middle class. Then it moves on yet again to accuse Obama of not being ready to lead.

This is just a mishmash of ideas, and poorly chosen ones at that.

The McCain people really have to get off the "Celebrity" meme. It just sounds like McCain is mad he's not the celebrity any more. No one likes a whiner. Get over it.

It is a very bad idea to follow up not knowing how many houses you have with accusing your opponent of not knowing what things cost.

It might be effective to talk about higher taxes; you can assume that low-information voters won't see the graphic circulating that shows that Obama's tax plan only raises taxes on the rich. (Or, as McCain would put it, the rich, and those working poor who only make over $250,000 a year.)

But then it shoots off into Obama's supposed unreadiness to lead. "He's ready to raise taxes, but not ready to lead."

I'm not really sure what we're supposed to take away from this ad.

If I were trying to counter the "So Many Houses He Can't Remember Them" meme, I would get off economics as fast as I could. I would talk about the war in Georgia. I would accuse Obama of being weak and mealy-mouthed and not standing up for our allies. (Again: foreign policy wonks would ask if standing up for Georgia would be a good idea, but low information voters would probably like to see us Stand Up to the Russkies.) I would try to reframe things as quickly as possible as "McCain knows what he stands for." Reagan forgot a lot of stuff too, and said that trees pollute, and fibbed about his war experience. But he won because everyone knew what he stood for, and that's what the election was about. After four years of Carter, the country was ready for a morally convinced stand-up guy.

Of course there's a danger there, too, that McCain comes off as a hothead. But he is a hothead, so you might as well make that a virtue, or you leave the issue out there for your opponent to frame, and that's never a good idea.

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2 Comments:

I also don't understand the logic behind the ad where McCain talks about how bad things were the past four years and how he's the "original maverick."

All that does is remind me that he's old and that he's trying to separate himself from Bush even though he supported Bush for the past eight years.

It's just not very persuasive when instead of clinging to your strengths to try to lie about your weaknesses.

By Blogger Emily Blake, at 1:42 PM  

That's an amazing home-brew ad. I agree about the length. My guess is that the maker thought ads are supposed to be 60 seconds, and didn't notice that there are a lot of 30 second ads too.

I think it would be bad strategy for the Obama campaign to run the itself. But if I were in the Obama campaign, I'd be wishing really hard for some 527 to run the ad, so Obama could do an interview disapproving negative ads, so the news program runs a clip of the ad in the background, drawing more attention to it.

I think I'll repost it to my Livejournal, and link your commentary with a teaser excerpt.

By Blogger Steve, at 3:20 AM  

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