The Politics You'll See As You Watch 100M Hurdles

| Fri Aug. 8, 2008 11:51 AM EDT

I mentioned earlier that the presidential campaign will essentially go on a short hiatus, starting today and lasting for a week or so. Don't think the lack of news will mean a stop to the TV ads, though, especially if you live in a battleground state.

Barack Obama has released his ad that will play during the Olympics. It's here:

A new McCain ad that will also be showing in the next few days is here:

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Now, try to forget for one second that McCain's ad has a number of claims that numerous non-partisan outlets are calling substantively false or misleading. Instead, let's look at the obvious difference in tone. Obama's ad is positive, with smiling people and lots of light. Americans are hard at work, and the narrator suggests that our can-do spirit will ensure that we'll be hard at work in the future even as the economy evolves. A bounty of new ideas, some only vaguely defined, paints Obama as a candidate with a new vision.

Consider the McCain ad. It's negative from start to finish. The happy Americans in the ad, including a mother and her little girl, seem under threat from an ominous narrator and heavy shadowing. There are no new ideas. There is no new vision.

Now, I've stated here before I'm a believer that McCain will do his best when he emphasizes his own credentials as a reformer and maverick — in a recent ad he asserted that "Washington is broken," which frames the election as a battle between two "change" candidates. That seems to obviously be a better situation for McCain than an election with just one "change" candidate.

So it's no surprise that I don't think McCain's negative approach will be successful. Ceding the "new vision" ground to the other guy, when you are already associated with the party that drove the country into a ditch for eight years, seems like a bad plan. And repeatedly complaining that too many people like the other guy ("he's so popular") feels like a strategy we'll be laughing about in 2009. But then, perhaps I am too innocent. I've underestimated the power of negative ads before.