Posted by: David Kiley on March 28, 2008
GOP Presidential candidate John McCain has kicked off a new campaign ad meant to assert his credentials over the Democrats while Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama tangle over whether Obama should have walked out of church.
This ad from McCain follows a familiar pattern, and uses familiar images, especially the time-worn video of a captive McCain being questioned by North Vietnamese. He gives his name rank and serial number.
I have lost track of the number of times McCain has used this video in ads. And on his website, there is a video that opens with the whole video as a mood setter.
Here is the ad.
I chatted with someone who has worked on Hillary Clinton’s ad strategy. He made an interesting point. Going into the November election, a big part of McCain’s brand story is his five-year captivity in the Hanoi Hilton. Meantime, the Democrats would like to make Americans’ attitude about the Iraq War a front and center issue.
Just as the GOP used John Kerry’s Vietnam service against him a-la the Swift Boaters, this ad strategist posits an idea that Dems or a Dem 527 group could go so far as to use the video of McCain in their own ad with a message of…”McCain should know the pointlessness of wars that the U.S. doesn’t need to fight. So why does he want to stay in Iraq for 100 years.”
It does beg the question of whether images of McCain’s five-year captivity doesn’t remind people of the Vietnam war and then moves them to quickly associate the Iraq occupation McCain fervently defends with Vietnam.
Using McCain’s POW footage against him would be an idea, admits this strategist, fraut with risk in how it would be received. Worse, he admits, the press might turn on the Dems if reporters and pundits deeemed it too far out of bounds. But it’s an idea on the table to render the video powerless in the Fall.
On the other hand, people who have seen the footage in ad after ad after ad may be tiring of it on their own, and thus rendering it powerless anyway.
The rest of the ad seems written, as it should be given McCain’s contrast with Dems on experience, to play up his gravitas.
“And what must we believe about the president?” asks the narrator. “What does he think? Where has he been? Has he walked the walk?”
Again, my strategist friend: “Asking those rhetoricals invites the other side to run ad that answers them in their own way.”
But, the other side isn’t answering McCain so much right now. It might be an interesting tactic, though, if Hillary or Obama pivoted away from one another in an ad and went after McCain.
As always, stay tuned.