4.21.2008

Clinton closes Pennsylvania campaign with negative spot

In the closing days of the Ohio and Texas primaries, the Clinton campaign had come out with the first version of the 3am phone call ad -- as direct an attack on Obama's national security readiness as any Hillary had attempted.

Seven weeks later, the Clinton campaign once again introduced an attack ad questioning Obama's experience, one that is arguably even more controversial than the previous one (You can watch it here). "It's the toughest job in the world," says a voice as the clip goes through a series of images, evoking the stock market crash, Pearl Harbor, the Cuban missile crisis, Bin Laden, and Hurricane Katrina. The ad concludes: "You need to be ready for anything -- especially now, with two wars, oil prices skyrocketing and an economy in crisis. Harry Truman said it best -- if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Who do you think has what it takes?"

The ad is bound to be controversial in Democratic circles because it uses a shot of Bin Laden, perhaps the tactic that is the most characteristic of the "politics of fear." It furthers the argument made in the 3am and it extends it from a national security worry to a more general attack on Obama's inexperience, as many of the issues this ad touches are economical.

Many Democrats will legitimately worry that this is a theme McCain will eagerly seize upon and drive much further in the general election if he faces Obama. In fact, the series of catastrophes the ad races through are reminiscent of some of the ads Rudy Giuliani ran last fall; Giuliani was fond of paranoid ads listing all the threats and enemies facing America. This points to a fundamental weakness in Clinton's ad: this ad only does a tenth of what Giuliani's ad dared do (and probably what McCain's will do) -- and, naturally, Clinton cannot strengthen it any further without really attracting the ire of her fellow Democrats.

Can this kind of attack ad be truly effective if the script cannot be as strongly worded as it would need to be to have an impact? The same question applied to the 3am ad, despite its being credited with moving numbers on March 4th. I think the controversy over Obama's position on NAFTA was much more damaging to his candidacy than the 3am ad, but if the 3am did have an impact, this latest ad is weaker than its predecessor in that it makes its national security point much more indirectly.

Yet, this latest ad is stronger than the 3am ad in a decisive respect: It is centered on domestic issues. This is Clinton's strong suit -- not foreign affairs. Obama has had a ready response to Clinton's claims that she is more experienced when it comes to national security (the Iraq vote) and the recent controversy over Bosnia undermined Clinton's reputation on foreign affairs even further. But voters still relate to Hillary on the economy and she is widely credited for her mastery of policy. Another reason why negative ads on domestic issues are stronger than those on national security: Clinton cannot be accused of hurting Obama's cause in the general election, for McCain would have much more difficulty using a readiness argument centered on the economy than one centered on national security given McCain's own economic inexperience.

With that in mind, it is puzzling that Clinton has not more forcefully insisted on the argument that she is more ready to address these kinds of economic emergencies (foreclosures, health care, oil prices) -- rather than go back to 3am national security phone calls and spots about Al Qaeda.

The shot of Bin Laden makes the ad more controversial while, in my opinion, diluting its impact, so why include it? Clinton's bet is probably that it will help her earn free media coverage. The ad was launched today, in the final hours of the campaign, and unless the ad gets picked up in evening news and in cable shows it is unlikely that a sufficient number of voters would see it enough to think about it before voting.

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3 Comments:

  • No surprise Hillary is the most divisive and controversial politician this whole election cycle. Her candidacy is mostly linked to her success in brainwashing voters who unwittingly swallow falseholds, such as this ad.
    One must realize that a careful look at her and Obama's records shows she has accomplished nothing that warrant even airing this absurd ad. For one, Obama has more political experience than her when you combine his senate years with that of his Ill. legislative career (see www.votesmart.org). I fail to support the overwhelming majority of Hillary's experience and national security credentials claims with available facts, and while Obama has been found to be misleading voters with some ads , Hillary's ads most often contain outrageously false claims (check www.factcheck.org).
    I won't e be surprised if Hillary wins in PA by more than a double digit, because PA contains a significant number of uneducated, conservative voters who will fall victims to Clinton's political deceit.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 21 April, 2008 22:42  

  • Every time I hear one of this Obamabots complaing about how the Clinton's hard charging style, I have to wonder where all this nambpmabyness comes from. Dear Obamabots, politics is a blood sport, has aways been, and always will be. So....grow up and live wit it. Such delicate constitutions, you poor things!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 22 April, 2008 06:34  

  • Obamabots can never take any criticism about their candidate. They love to throw out the race card. Barack has the liberals and the blacks of the party. Besides that, no one else.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 22 April, 2008 06:51  

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