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The McCain Strategy: From Autobiography To Attack

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There is no doubt: in the past few weeks John McCain has made a conscious decision to run a negative, personalized campaign against Barack Obama. A campaign that was once focused on pushing the biographic attributes of its own candidate has now become almost uniquely intent on tearing down the opponent.

This reading is objective. In the past month, the McCain campaign has launched ten web and television advertisements. The first two spots were almost entirely devoted to McCain. The last eight contained only three brief mentions of the Arizona Republican. Indeed, of the 16 minutes and 35 seconds of space that these eight ads filled, 14 minutes and three seconds were spent focused on or discussing Barack Obama. The Illinois Democrat was criticized on everything from high gas prices and snubbing the troops, to egomania. There was, of course, an eight-minute web ad debunking Obama's consistency on the Iraq War. But even if that spot is removed from the equation, the Obama-to-McCain ratio of ad focus is still almost two-to-one.

On Friday morning, Obama surrogate Sen. Claire McCaskill, bemoaned that McCain had become "obsessed" with Obama. The proof is in the pudding.

On July 7, McCain's campaign put out the spot "Love" a one-minute biographical advertisement that focused almost solely on the Senator. The ad began with the social tensions of the 60s and moved from there into McCain's history from Vietnam onward. The only dig at Obama was implicit. "John McCain doesn't tell us what we... HOPE... to hear. Beautiful words cannot make our lives better..."

On July 10, McCain put out the ad "God's Children," a minute-long spot meant to appeal to Latino voters. None of the footage includes Obama. It is, rather, mostly a clip from a Republican primary debate in which the Arizona Republican discussed the military sacrifices made by Hispanic Americans.

On July 17, 2008, the McCain campaign put out a nearly eight-minute long "Obama documentary." An effective, albeit lengthy, spot, it is devoted in its entirety to painting the Democratic nominee as a serial flip-flopper on the war.

On July 18, the campaign put out "Troop Funding" to preempt Obama's trip to the Middle East and Europe. It was harshly negative, accusing Obama of changing positions for political purposes and misleadingly saying that he voted against troop funding (when McCain had, by that technical definition, done the same). The last ten seconds of the 30-second-spot were devoted to McCain, however, declaring that "he has always supported our troops. "

On July 21, McCain released the "Pump" ad, which blames Obama for the high price of gasoline. The spot, which begins with the shot of a pump and people chanting Obama's name, crests with the question: "Who can you thank for rising prices at the pump?" A picture of the Illinois Democrat is plastered on the screen. The last 12-seconds of the thirty-second spot are devoted to McCain's proposal to drill for more energy.

On July 26, McCain put out a web ad that absolutely eviscerated the press for being in bed with Obama. Almost three minutes long, there is not a single mention of John McCain. "Do you feel that thrill running up your leg yet?" the advertisement concludes.

Also on July 26, the McCain campaign reworked the Troops ad that they ran eight days ago, only this time they put in the false accusation that Obama wouldn't go see wounded soldiers because "the pentagon wouldn't allow him to bring cameras." The last ten seconds included footage of McCain, but offered no specifics only policy, simply "John McCain is always there for our troops."

On July 30 comes the real kicker, the now-infamous "Celeb" ad, which McCain has said he is "proud" of. The spot, thirty-seconds in length, is literally all about Obama, with McCain only coming in to say he endorsed the message. Indeed, Paris Hilton and Britney Spears -- to whom Obama is compared -- get as much face time.

On August 1, the McCain campaign is fully focused on Obama. This time, they put together a minute long spot that is devoted entirely to Obama's Berlin speech and ask why the Illinois Democrat never mentioned a Latin American country in his address. Designed to appeal to Hispanic voters, McCain's name only comes up when he endorses the message.

Later in the day, McCain put out a web ad titled "The One" that, again, is all about Obama. It goes for a minute-and-a-quarter and mocks Obama as an egotistical maniac along the lines of Moses (played by Charlton Heston). "We were having some fun with our supporters who we sent it out to," McCain explains later in the day. "We are going to display a sense of humor in this campaign."

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