09/15/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

New Olympics Ad Uplift from Obama and McCain, Attacks Everywhere Else

Barack Obama is about to launch this new ad during Olympics telecasts.

At last, the universe is as it should be. Two new ads for the Olympics from the two campaigns. And this time, they're both positive! Sort of.

Meanwhile, outside the high-profile Olympics telecasts, the campaigns are down with negative ads, with many of Obama's in the weeds, showing up unheralded in various battleground states.

For the unprecedented Olympics ad buys (both campaigns are spending about $6 million), Obama started out positive and uplifting -- as befits the positive uplift of the Olympics media environment -- with an ad extolling his vision for a new energy economy. He's about to change it out for another new ad, also very positive, positioning him as the champion of middle class economic concerns and aspirations. Showing people building a house.

McCain, as I noted at the beginning of the week, went in, well, a different direction. With a negative ad. Which kind of stuck out, as the only negative advertising in, well, the history of Olympic telecasts. On the familiar sneering "celebrity" theme. Which worked in holding Obama back in the polls after his spectacular tour of the Middle East and Europe. Yet seemed out of place for the Olympics.

This is John McCain's new Olympics ad.

But suddenly, on Wednesday night, Team McCain had a new ad up. A positive ad. Of a sort. My readers on New West Notes caught it and noted that, as positive ads go, it's pretty dour.

It's an ad the campaign touted to the media not this week but last week, an ad I'm sure the senator liked very much, casting him as "the original maverick." But it turns out that, according to tracking services, it hardly ran last week at all as an actual ad.

What it was then was bait for the media. And fodder for the McCain pushback against the idea his campaign is all about attacking Obama. Of course, the reason why McCain is competitive with Obama in this generally very bad year for Republicans is that his campaign is devoting itself to tearing down the young Illinois senator.

What it is now is a positive ad for the Olympics, replacing the only negative ad in Olympics history.

The ad is much more appropriate for the Olympics media environment. But it's still on the dark side, as you can tell from the title, which is "Broken." It starts off with foreboding music and stark black-and-white photos, proclaiming: "Washington's broken. John McCain knows it. We're worse off than we were four years ago."

Then it switches to color.

"Only McCain has taken on Big Tobacco, drug companies, fought corruption in both parties. He'll reform Wall Street, battle Big Oil, make America prosper again. He is the original maverick." (As "THE ORIGINAL MAVERICK" flashes onscreen with McCain walking up an airplane ramp, like the president.) "One is ready to lead. McCain."

It's an interesting ad, with some intriguing contradictions. The president during these bad last four years is McCain's biggest fundraiser. And, for example, it would be hard to say he's battling Big Oil after he adopted the oil industry's agenda just a couple of months ago.

But, despite its dark overtones, it does more naturally fit into the Olympics environment. And it is more in tune with the overall national mood than Obama's more sprightly efforts. It just may not be right for that media context.

We're seeing the high water mark of McCain's ability to compete with Obama on the air. McCain raised $27 million in July, his best month yet, though he still raises less than Obama. (The previous month had been McCain's best to date. With $21 million to Obama's $52 million.) He has $21 million left and continues to raise money in August. He must spend everything he has before the end of the Republican national convention early next month, because he's agreed to take $84 million in public financing for the general election. But there is a wild card. The Republican National Committee has a lot more than its Democratic counterpart.

Now, let's not pretend that Obama is all sweetness and light and "Yes we can" positive uplift. Not in the least. He is running a ton of negative ads against McCain, rather under the radar, many of them state-specific.

Obama is, after all, while a Honolulu native, a Chicago guy now. And it ain't the "Summer of Love" in the Windy City.

But he does want to preserve his positive, good-guy brand while Team McCain flies candidly in the face of his previous practices.

Here's Obama's latest attack ad running in most of the battleground states.

Barack Obama's new attack ad.

And here are some of Obama's stealthier state-specific attack ads. There is a Nevada ad attacking McCain for backing the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. There is an Indiana ad juxtaposing people talking about their tough economic times with McCain extolling the economy earlier in the year. There is an Ohio ad attacking McCain for helping with a corporate takeover there that is costing thousands of jobs. The Indiana ad may be running outside Indiana. (The campaign won't say where.) There may be more.

Here's the ad pounding McCain for talking up the economy while real people are hurting.

Barack Obama's Indiana attack ad.

Here's the ad pounding McCain for supporting the proposed nuclear waste repository in Nevada while saying that he wouldn't want nuclear waste transported in Arizona.

Barack Obama's Nevada attack ad.

And let's continue on this note of uplift with McCain's new attack ad in battleground states, hitting Obama as a guy who will raise your taxes and gas prices.

John McCain's new attack ad.


When do the Olympics start up again?