TV Ad Wars: Global O v. Latin Mac

07/24/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

John McCain's problematic new TV ad for Latino voters, "God's Children," with Spanish language captioning.

John McCain and Barack Obama both have new TV ads running. And each has at least one ad which is strange, in its own way. Though Obama has a brand new ad starting Thursday which works better than the similar ad he launched early in the week.

McCain has a problematic new ad for Latino voters. It won't work. And he was already far behind where Team McCain thought he'd be with Latinos a few months ago.

Meanwhile, Obama's new ad at the start of the week on geopolitics/national security was a bit of a misfire, as it were. But his new ad, starting on Thursday, properly positions his upcoming trip to the Middle East and Europe.

First to McCain. He's making a push for the Latino vote, having spoken Monday at the National Council of La Raza convention in San Diego. He's just started running a new TV ad in Mountain West states targeting Latino voters. Which barely has any Latinos in it.

It plays off the main ad he has running now in 11 battleground states, which focuses on his wartime heroism.

"My friends, I want you the next time you're down in Washington, D.C., to go to the Vietnam War Memorial and look at the names engraved in black granite," McCain says, using footage from an early GOP debate. "You'll find a whole lot of Hispanic names.

"When you go to Iraq or Afghanistan today, you're going to see a whole lot of people who are of Hispanic background. You're even going to meet some of the few thousand that are still green card holders who are not even citizens of this country, who love this country so much that they're willing to risk their lives in its service in order to accelerate their path to citizenship and enjoy the bountiful, blessed nation."

"So let's from time to time remember that these are God's children. They must come into country legally, but they have enriched our culture and our nation as every generation of immigrants before them."

The people you see in the ad are almost all white. That's because what McCain is saying is lifted from earlier Republican debate footage. McCain was hammered last year by the Republican right for the comprehensive immigration bill he authored with Ted Kennedy.

What McCain doesn't say in the ad -- and what he didn't say in his speech to La Raza on Monday -- is that he essentially disavowed the bill last year, saying he wouldn't vote for his own bill.

I don't think that's too well known amongst Latino voters.

And his prospects with them aren't great to begin with, though Team McCain has had high hopes.

The thinking was that McCain wins the Latino vote in Arizona and has credibility from his work on the immigration issue. And that Obama was weak with Latino voters, being generally swept by Hillary Clinton in the primaries. At least part of the theory was based on supposed antipathy between Latinos and African Americans.

Obama's supposed weakness with Latinos became the conventional wisdom. Turns out the conventional wisdom is wrong.

Obama's "weakness" with Latinos was nothing of the sort. It was Clinton's strength with Latinos, bolstered by campaigning for her by United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta, LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and former California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, Hillary's national campaign co-chair who told me that, while he likes McCain's ad and his effort, it won't trump Democratic efforts in "a year that is about change."

McCain had hoped to make a run at California, where Arnold Schwarzenegger's backing helped him clinch the Republican nomination in February by knocking Mitt Romney out of the race. But that's not happening, as Obama has a huge lead in the Golden State, 54% to 30%. And Obama has an even bigger lead with Latino voters, 64% to 21%.

In battleground state Colorado, where a big part of the presidency is to be won, Obama's four-point lead is built on a big 58% to 34% edge amongst Latinos.

And nationally, NBC's poll showed Obama with a huge lead over McCain with Latino voters, 62% to 28%. Considering that George W. Bush got over 40% of the Latino vote in 2004 against John Kerry, it looks like the candidate with a Latino problem is not Obama, but McCain.

Instead of running an ad focusing on the Vietnam War Memorial, McCain might more profitably try to explain why his ideas on education and economic stimulus are better for Latino voters than those of Obama.

Barack Obama's somewhat problematic TV ad on national security from early this week, emphasizing bipartisanship.

For his part, Obama put up a new TV ad early this week.

Here's the script:

BO at town hall: We are a beacon of light around the world. At least that's what we can be again. That's what we should be again.

BO in interview: The single most important national security threat that we face...

BO nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists.

BO VO: What I did was reach out to Senator Dick Lugar, a Republican, to help lock down loose nuclear weapons.

BO in interview: We have to lead the entire world to reduce that threat.

BO at town hall: We can restore America's leadership in the world.

BO VO: I'm Barack Obama, and I approve this message.

Unlike his first two ads, this one seemed off the main course of his campaign.

It's not a bad ad, emphasizing his bipartisan action in the face of criticism from Republicans that his bipartisanship/post-partisanship is all rhetorical. But it's not on the central issues of concern on national security. The wildly expensive -- in blood, treasure, and credibility -- morass in Iraq. The sliding situation in Afghanistan, six-and-a-half years after the ready ouster of the Taliban regime that harbored the actual attackers of America on 9/11. And the disastrous situation in Pakistan, where the Republican administration has looked the other way while the real cadre of Al Qaeda -- not the affiliate in Iraq grown and empowered by the fall of Saddam -- reconstituted itself.

The Obama ad at the beginning of the week was part of a swift pivot to prepare for the senator's upcoming trips to the Middle East and Europe. But it lacked the larger frame needed to position him as a credible commander-in-chief.

So now he has another new ad, going on the air on Thursday, which provides that needed frame.

And a new slogan, "New Leadership For A Changing World."

Here's the script.

Announcer: 40 years ago it was missile silos and the Cold War.

Today, it's cyber attacks...loose nukes...oil money funding terrorism.

Barack Obama understands our changing world.

On the Foreign Relations Committee, he co-sponsored a law to lock down loose nuclear weapons.

As president, he'll rebuild our alliances to take out terrorist networks...

And fast-track alternatives so we stop spending billions on oil from hostile nations.

New leadership for a changing world.

Obama VO: I'm Barack Obama and I approve this message.

Unlike the ad early this week, this brand new ad properly positions Obama's upcoming trip to Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Jordan, Germany, France, and the UK.

He's not going as a naif on a fact-finding trip. He's going to learn, yes, but also, in this view, to teach. That he intends to bring change to America, and to America's relations with the larger world of which it is a part. That he understands how the world has changed better than those who have brought the past to this pass.

A much more effective tack.