2012 Campaign Ads Owe Debt To 'Daisy Petals'

The GOP presidential hopefuls are airing ads in nearly all of the early voting states. NPR's Ken Rudin, political ad expert Ken Goldstein and Robert Mann, author of Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds: LBJ, Barry Goldwater, and the Ad that Changed American Politics talk about ads past and present.

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NEAL CONAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. A radio host offers Newt a million to get out of the race, Mitt bets Perry 10 grand, and the payroll tax hangs fire in the Senate. It's Wednesday and time for a...

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CONAN: Edition of the Political Junkie

PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: There you go again.

VICE PRESIDENT WALTER MONDALE: When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad: Where's the beef?

SENATOR BARRY GOLDWATER: Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.

SENATOR LLOYD BENTSON: Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.

PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON: You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore.

SARAH PALIN: Lipstick.

GOVERNOR RICK PERRY: Oops.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: But I'm the decider.

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CONAN: Every Wednesday, political junkie Ken Rudin joins us to recap the week in politics. Start those countdown clocks: Yet another government shutdown looms. The Supreme Court, well, taxes tackle Texas congressional lines, Newt gets it from all sides in Des Moines, which means it's official, he's number one.

Now even the Donald won't attend the Trump debate, and the president's negatives reach all-time highs. In a few minutes, we'll speak with political advertising expert Ken Goldstein about this cycle's ads, and we'll check in with Robert Mann on the ad that changed them all. Plus investment scams targeted at the Woodstock generation.

But first, political junkie Ken Rudin joins us as usual here in Studio 3A. As usual, we begin with a trivia question. Hey, Ken.

KEN RUDIN, BYLINE: Hi, Neal, okay, well, you know, the latest polls have Newt Gingrich with a sizeable lead in the January 3rd Iowa caucuses, and he's catching up in New Hampshire. But the trivia question here: Who was the first person to lose both the Iowa caucuses, New Hampshire primary and go on to win the presidency?

CONAN: If you think you know the answer, the first person to lose both the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary but yet go on to the White House, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. The winner, of course, gets a fabulous political junkie no-prize T-shirt.

And Ken, we always like to start with actual votes when we can, actual votes yesterday in the U.S. Senate.

RUDIN: That's right. The vote was 25 to 22. This - if you didn't find this in the newspaper, it's because nobody cared about it, but it is significant in some way. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the former majority whip in the House, briefly majority leader, he was elected vice-chairman of the Republican Conference, Republican Senate Conference Committee, which is the number five position in the Senate.

What makes this interesting is that the guy he defeated was Ron Johnson, who was from Wisconsin, backed by the Tea Party, backed by Jim DeMint and Rand Paul and Mike Lee and a lot of the Tea Party folks who made a big play after the 2010 elections. And Roy Blunt is not only a Romney guy, he's Romney's number one guy in the Senate, but he's really the establishment, and it just - you know, there was some interesting message that came out of the Republican Conference yesterday in the Senate.

CONAN: Was he the minority leader's choice?

RUDIN: You mean Mitch McConnell's choice? Well, Mitch McConnell probably, although Mitch McConnell said he had absolutely no involvement at all in this, but Mitch McConnell is kind of an establishment guy. He likes to - he doesn't like to rock the boat. And Johnson and DeMint certainly are the kind of folks who like to rock the boat, and Mitch McConnell's not a fan of that.

CONAN: In the meantime, the House passed the payroll tax extension. This is what President Obama's been calling for. Though they included what the president says is a poison pill.

RUDIN: Yes, and that poison pill, of course, is a speedy approval of the oil pipeline from Canada...

CONAN: Keystone XL Pipeline.

RUDIN: Well, it's trickle-down theory.

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RUDIN: They want the oil to trickle down from Canada into the Gulf states and into Texas, and President Obama says that's absolutely a non-starter, and Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid says this bill is dead on arrival.

CONAN: But in the meantime, if they don't pass that, then the payroll tax cut evaporates at the end of the year. And they also have to pass this budget thing. There's another government shutdown looming.

RUDIN: You know something? We had - Neal and I had a talk before this, the show, and we wonder if we should even be talking about this because people - and as we do in Washington, we roll our eyes. These deadlines that are coming that the world is - Henny Penny, the world is coming to an end, and then somehow something gets done, and everybody says phew until the next, you know, two days later when the next crisis ensues. So it's politics as usual in Washington.

CONAN: On the other side of the street, the Supreme Court, which has already scheduled five-and-a-half hours of debate on the health care issue, agreed not only to take up Arizona's immigration bill, but now it will also look at the redrawn congressional lines in Texas. A federal court down there said the lines drawn by the legislature...

RUDIN: The Republican legislature.

CONAN: The Republican legislature violated the Voting Rights Act and redrew them to - more favorably for the Democrats and Hispanics, and the Supreme Court says wait a minute, they're going to look at that in January.

RUDIN: Exactly. Texas, because of its population growth in the last 10 years, get four new seats. The Republican legislature passed a bill or drew a map that basically had Republicans winning three out of the four. But since most of the gains were in overwhelming Hispanic areas in Texas, this map, this three-court, three-judge panel decided to draw a new map and had three Democratic victories, one Republican. Supreme Court will take it up on January 9.

CONAN: In the meantime, we have some callers on the line who think they know the answer to this week's trivia question. And that of course is the last person to lose...

RUDIN: First person.

CONAN: First person, check that, the first person to lose both in Iowa and New Hampshire but yet go on to the White House. 800-989...

RUDIN: And we're talking about the primaries, not the general election.

CONAN: 8255. Email is talk@npr.org. Just jump in there wherever you'd like.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONAN: We'll start with June(ph), June with us from Rochester, Minnesota.

JUNO: Yes, my - this is Juno Miller(ph). And I think it's George H.W. Bush, Sr.

CONAN: The president who was known as 41.

RUDIN: Yes, well, George H.W. Bush did lose to Ronald Reagan in the New Hampshire primary, but he beat him in the Iowa caucuses.

CONAN: So he does not qualify.

JUNO: (Unintelligible) Bill Clinton.

RUDIN: Next call?

CONAN: Next call, let's go next to - this is John(ph), John with us from Waterloo, Iowa.

JOHN: I'm going to have to say Bill Clinton.

RUDIN: Well, you're going to have to say it because you're right.

CONAN: Ding, ding, ding.

RUDIN: That was quick. Bill Clinton lost Iowa caucuses 1992 to favorite son Tom Harkin. And then he finished second to Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts in New Hampshire. Of course, he said he was the comeback kid, even though he finished second. But Bill Clinton didn't win, I think, until Georgia primary of that year, and yet if memory serves, he went on to win the election as president.

CONAN: All right, John, stay on the line, we'll collect your particulars in exchange for your promise of a digital picture of yourself wearing the about-to-be-mentioned fabulous political junkie no-prize T-shirt. We're going to send you on in whatever size you would like.

JOHN: Thank you.

CONAN: Congratulations. In the meantime, we've had, well, any number of debates. There's another one tomorrow night, but there was one in Saturday's debate in Des Moines where Michele Bachmann tested a new attack line.

REPRESENTATIVE MICHELE BACHMANN: If you look at Newt-Romney, they were for Obamacare principles. If you look at Newt-Romney, they were for cap and trade. If you look at Newt-Romney, they were for the illegal immigration problem.

CONAN: And of course she's conflating two candidates there.

RUDIN: Yeah, I thought Newt-Romney was the coach from Notre Dame.

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RUDIN: I've been saving that joke all day.

CONAN: Have you been saving that joke all day? You should tell me that one before.

RUDIN: Well, yes, and actually, well, of course...

CONAN: He voted for Reagan.

RUDIN: Just as - the Gipper. Just as the Democrats loved to run against the Dole-Gingrich ticket in 1996, Michele Bachmann is trying to conflate Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney as basically the two candidates standing above her, blocking her chance of winning the Iowa caucuses.

CONAN: Which is make or break for her. In the meantime, everybody was taking, Michele Bachmann included, swipes at the new frontrunner in Iowa, that is Newt Gingrich, who has pledged himself to be totally positive, aboveboard, and for the most part, he was, for the most part.

NEWT GINGRICH: If Governor Romney would like to give back all the money he's earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain, then I would be glad to then listen to him. And I'll bet you $10, not $10,000, that he won't take the offer.

CONAN: And that of course a response to Mitt Romney's call for Newt Gingrich to return the $1.6 million he made...

RUDIN: As a consultant for...

CONAN: Freddie Mac, which he said was the politicians who were in favor of it should be jailed. But all of this, in general Newt Gingrich has been very positive. He told his - all of his supporters to be positive, as well. Mitt Romney has been on the attack against Newt Gingrich.

RUDIN: Yes, and, you know, we saw that from Romney four years ago, when he went after John McCain and Mike Huckabee as not being ideologically pure. And, you know, but - except what Mitt Romney is saying about Newt Gingrich, there is truth to that. He is an unreliable conservative, and in many ways, attacking the Paul Ryan thing, a lot of things that are right about what Newt - what Romney is saying.

MITT ROMNEY: This whole Washington crowd of insiders that stay there, get paid a lot of money there because of their associations, I think it's something the American people are tired of.

CONAN: Washington insider another one, and that harkens back to the Freddie Mac charge. In the meantime, the polls show that Newt Gingrich, I think comfortably in the lead in Iowa.

RUDIN: Yes, the last I saw, it was something like 40 to 23. That's huge, and that's the biggest margin, the biggest gap between any two candidates, let alone Romney in second place. And of course as we saw in 2008, when Romney was thought to do very well in Iowa, when he lost to Mike Huckabee, his support gradually, quickly diminished in New Hampshire. And so it is very possible that Newt Gingrich, if he wins Iowa, could win New Hampshire.

And there's a little trivia fact about that, as well: Nobody in the history of a contested primary, has ever won Iowa and won New Hampshire and gone on to win the nomination.

CONAN: Well, that's an interesting twist on our...

RUDIN: When there's a presidency.

CONAN: Yeah, the presidency. In the meantime - well, this is going to change everything. Christine O'Donnell came out with an endorsement.

RUDIN: Which candidate?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RUDIN: Oh, I'm sorry, that was a cheap joke. Yes, she did, endorsed him at Salem. No, she didn't do that either, no. But, you know, this was very strange. Yesterday, late afternoon, I got this email from the Romney campaign that says Christine O'Donnell is - last evening - Christine O'Donnell endorses Romney.

Two seconds later, I get an email from the DNC, the Democratic National Committee, saying Christine O'Donnell endorses Romney. It's a very odd - it seems to me odd kind of endorsement to tout, but she was a Tea Party favorite, and she may have cost the Republican Party a seat in the Senate in Delaware. But she, as I said, a Tea Party favorite.

CONAN: In the meantime, some other political news. Newt Gingrich fired a staff member in Iowa who described Mormonism as a cult.

RUDIN: The cult of Mormon, right.

CONAN: And Donald Trump canceled the NewsMax debate, which I think only Newt Gingrich had accepted.

RUDIN: And Rick Santorum. I was dying to see that one.

CONAN: And Rick Santorum. And the Obamas - President Obama's negatives, this is doing a bad job, they are at an all-time high.

RUDIN: Yes, not only - it's not only his job performance, his personal popularity, the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll had him 48 favorable, 49 unfavorable. The unfavorability of Barack Obama is similar to what Newt Gingrich's is. Of course Gingrich's positives are like 35 percent compared to the president's 48 percent.

CONAN: And the president in those polls handily leads Newt Gingrich, but it's a statistical tie, within the margin of error, between the president and Mitt Romney.

RUDIN: And that's the argument that the Republicans are going to have to deal with. We've talked about this on the show for a long time: Do you want to go for ideological purity or at least the most conservative candidate? And whether that's Newt Gingrich remains to be seen. Or do you want to go for the one who's most electable? And most polls show that to be Mitt Romney.

CONAN: We're not done with the political junkie yet. Ken Rudin will stay with us. Up next, the former press secretary Robert Mann joins us. That'll be actually a little bit later in the program. We're going to be talking with Ken Goldstein, president of CMAG, a division of Cantor Media who's an expert on political advertising to look at the political ads in this year's race. 800-989-8255. What's the most interesting development on the political advertising front? Email talk@npr.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan. It's Wednesday, Political Junkie day. Ken Rudin is here as usual. His latest column and that devilish ScuttleButton puzzle are both online at npr.org/junkie. Ken, anyone crack last week's ScuttleButton?

RUDIN: They did. Matter of fact, a coincidence about this because the answer to last week's puzzle was Bumblebee tuna, and the last button in the puzzle was Charlie from Starkist holding up a can of Starkist tuna. That was my tuna thing. And yet Charlie Slack(ph) of Medina, New York - coincidence - is the winner.

CONAN: There's no coincidence, there's no coincidence.

RUDIN: Well, no, I named him on porpoise. I'm so sorry for that.

CONAN: In the meantime, he will be the thrilled recipient of a Political Junkie no-prize T-shirt. In the meantime, the GOP presidential hopefuls have taken to the airwaves in virtually all states with early primaries or caucuses. Some, like Newt Gingrich, focus on the positive. Others take advantage of their 30 seconds or a minute to fire rhetorical shots at the frontrunners.

We're starting to see waves of outside groups begin to weigh in as well. Ken Goldstein is an expert on political advertising. He serves as president of the Campaign Media Analysis Group at Kantar Media, and he's on the line with us from New York. Nice to have you on TALK OF THE NATION today.

KEN GOLDSTEIN: Good to be here.

CONAN: And has any particular ad stood out to you thus far?

GOLDSTEIN: I don't think we've necessarily seen that one killer ad that we're going to be talking about many years down the line. I think you're going to end up talking about the daisy commercial a little bit later. So I don't think we've seen the famous ad of 2012 yet.

CONAN: Well, it's morning in America, but it's still early in the race. Most of these ads seem to be people really introducing themselves to the voters.

GOLDSTEIN: Yeah, I mean it really is extraordinarily early in the race. But it's also late starting. So at this same time period in 2007 you had 10, 15, 20 times as much money being spent in Iowa, in New Hampshire, not to mention South Carolina and Nevada. And it's really only been in the last week that we're seeing any significant sort of buying in Iowa or New Hampshire.

And as you said, mostly, although not all, of the campaign advertising is these candidates introducing themselves to voters. But I think the fur is going to begin to fly pretty quickly.

CONAN: Frontrunner Newt Gingrich has just managed to get enough money to get an ad up on the air – this, of course, after his campaign got discombobulated last spring, and almost everybody left, and he was forced to fly commercial, my gosh. But in any case, this is an excerpt from the ad that he's running in Iowa.

(SOUNDBITE OF ADVERTISEMENT)

GINGRICH: Some people say the America we know and love is a thing of the past. I don't believe that, because working together I know we can rebuild America. We can revive our economy and create jobs, shrink government and the regulations that strangle our businesses, throw out the tax code and replace it with one that is simple and fair.

We can regain the world's respect by standing strong again, being true to our faith, and respecting one another...

CONAN: And Ken Goldstein, as you listen to that, this is a candidate espousing ideas, sounding positive, certainly about the people in his own party, there's a couple of veiled swipes in there at the president, but that's certainly okay in a Republican presidential primary.

GOLDSTEIN: Sure, you know, absolutely, Gingrich's first effort out of the box to introduce himself to Iowa voters over the air. You know, what remains very interesting to me about TV advertising is, you know, I guess thank goodness because it's been my career, is people love to talk about it, and the media loves to talk about it.

So you know, Gingrich is also, as he goes up on the air, his ads are getting coverage, and we're talking about Gingrich, and you basically just aired his ad.

CONAN: Uh-huh. Ken?

RUDIN: Ken, but you know, what's interesting, when I think of an ad for this year, I think of the smoking man in the Herman Cain ad, and everybody in Washington was talking about it. I have no idea what it was about, but I just remember seeing his spokesman, Mark Block, with a cigarette, puffing a cigarette, and everybody saying, wow, this is the most amazing thing I've ever seen.

And yet I have no idea of what they were saying about it in a debate. But yet that's the kind of ad - I mean, but that's the kind of ad that people talked about for weeks.

GOLDSTEIN: You know, I think a couple things. There was the famous Mark Block smoking ad that was on the Internet for Herman Cain that certainly got, certainly got a lot of buzz. And we're seeing more Internet-focused advertising. There's a two-minute Ron Paul Internet out there. There's two, three, four-minute ads that the candidates are putting out.

And we're certainly going to see more of that in 2012, but these folks now are targeting their ads towards a very, very narrow primary or caucus audience in Iowa. But when push comes to shove in 2012, we're going to see massive spending on television because they're going to have to simply get more reach and get more reach among people who aren't necessarily, to use a term you like, political junkies.

You know, the other interesting thing about that Mark Block - and sort of a lot of fun to watch the smoking person - there's going to be such a huge amount of advertising this cycle from such a huge amount of sources that the challenge for these candidates and groups, even if they have a lot of money, is to get their message to shine through.

So quality and content is going to be even more important, and how do you somehow break through and get attention, and how does your ad attract free media.

CONAN: Well, Rick Perry, who's had no trouble attracting free media but not necessarily on the issues that he'd like to focus on, but he's taken up this second round of ads. He's had to reintroduce himself a couple of times because of those debate stumbles. This time, well, he's trying to sound - go a little bit more on the attack.

(SOUNDBITE OF ADVERTISEMENT)

PERRY: I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian, but you don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know that there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school. As president, I'll end Obama's war on religion.

CONAN: And he's addressing the president of the United States, but not ashamed to be a Christian - is this a veiled attack on Mitt Romney's Mormonism, do you think?

GOLDSTEIN: You know, interesting, I don't know. And again, we're - you know, it's a Republican primary electorate. It's in Iowa, where it's going to be a fairly small number of places, and he thinks that this message can carve out support from a particular segment.

So it's broadcast television, but it's highly targeted towards what are going to be relatively few caucus-goers.

CONAN: Ken?

RUDIN: Ken, also, do you think perhaps part of the reason why it's such a late start and why they're not putting so much money into ads is that most of the candidates have been relying on debates to make their case?

GOLDSTEIN: Absolutely. It's been - debates and drama have churned up news cycle after news cycle this fall. So I think we've had - I've lost count - 14 or 15 Republican debates, and there's always a little bit of news coverage the day before the debate and a little bit of news coverage the day of the debate and then a little bit of new coverage after the debate. That's churning up a lot of news cycles.

And then we've had some drama with various candidates and campaigns that's also churning up news cycle, and it's made it, you know, less necessary for campaigns to go up on the air.

It's also the case, and it was really only the Perry campaign and the Romney campaign that would have had the serious resources to go up on the air, and you know, the Perry campaign went up, and the Romney campaign initially, either because of debates and drama or because they felt the Perry message wasn't getting through, didn't feel they needed to respond.

So when those big players were - what was going to be the biggest player was sitting on the sideline, it was going to make it a - not a particularly heavy fall season or Christmas season for folks who own TV stations in Iowa and New Hampshire.

RUDIN: But we know that President Obama and the Democrats are talking about perhaps a billion dollar campaign on his re-election behalf. Republicans are going to have to come up with a lot of money to come close to matching that.

GOLDSTEIN: And they will. So the relative paucity of advertising that we've seen here in 2011 in Iowa and New Hampshire says absolutely nothing about what's going to be just a massive television advertising air war in 2012, not only by the candidates, not only by the parties, but by what's going to be a huge proliferation of outside groups as well.

CONAN: And some of those ads are up, not necessarily in the presidential race but in some of the senatorial contests. This is fallout from the Citizens United decision. A group called Crossroads GPS produced this ad.

(SOUNDBITE OF ADVERTISEMENT)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Look at the damage he did: higher taxes, cutting Medicare spending, embarrassing Nebraska. Ben Nelson so loved Obama when it counted most. Senator, it's time to make it right.

CONAN: If you were in doubt, that was an ad against Ben Nelson. These groups, this kind of money is going to be immensely powerful, not just in the primaries, and we're just beginning to see it, but for the next year.

GOLDSTEIN: Sure, these groups are going to be the big story of 2012 - how much they spend, where they spend it, and how their message is going to be coordinated in tune with the candidates who they're spending - whose spending is on their behalf. It really, really is the big story.

And Crossroads is going to be one of the bigger players in that.

CONAN: When you look at these groups, who does - who seems to be better armed, the broadly speaking Republican camp or broadly speaking Democratic camp?

GOLDSTEIN: 2008 was very much an aberration. Typically in presidential elections, typically in competitive elections, each side will end up with a similar amount of resources. The size of their pie will be similar, although the slices might be - might look different. In 2008, Obama, the Democrats had a pretty big advantage. In 2012, I think it's going to be back to what we typically see in a presidential election when both sides are going to have plenty of ammo. Now, it might be the case that on the Democratic side that more of that money is being spent by the Obama campaign or more of that money is being spent by the DNC.

And on the Republican side, perhaps more of that money is being spent by some of these outside groups, like Crossroads, but no one is going to out-advertise the other. Each side is going to have their say in 2012.

CONAN: So don't go ahead and sell your stock in those local television stations. They're going to be picking up a lot of ad time.

GOLDSTEIN: Especially if you're in Ohio, Florida or Pennsylvania.

CONAN: OK. There is also, in this early cycle, one candidate who's been running an out-and-out attack ad sequence. And that is Ron Paul, the congressman who's planning to retire at the end of this term. Some of them are funny. This one is just an out-and-out attack.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Everything that Gingrich railed against when he was in the House, he went the other way when he got paid to go the other way.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: He is demonstrating himself to be the very essence of the Washington insiders.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: It's about serial hypocrisy.

REPRESENTATIVE RON PAUL: I'm Ron Paul, and I approve this message.

CONAN: And you expect the gloves to come off even more as this gets down to fewer candidates in the Republican primary.

GOLDSTEIN: I think so. And it's interesting. Ron Paul actually his first ad, I was - I sort of called it the drive-by shooting negative ad. And as you know, I've been studying negative advertising for quite some time, and I think Ron Paul's first ad hit all five or six Republican candidates in one negative ad. And this later one is much more focused on former Speaker Gingrich. Negative advertising in a primary is really interesting. If you remember back towards 2004, the - Gephardt and Howard Dean went after each other in Iowa.

They were one and two in Iowa. Political consultants call it the Dean-Gephardt murder-suicide in Iowa in 2004. And what happened was they went negative on each other, which then allowed John Kerry and John Edwards to come in one and two in Iowa. So it's going to be very interesting, because it's not negative advertising in what we typically see the general election where it's a two-person or a zero-sum game. That Ron Paul advertising could be benefiting Ron Paul. It could also be benefiting Mitt Romney by taking Newt Gingrich down.

CONAN: We're talking with Ken Goldstein, president of CMAG, the division of Kantar Media, an expert on campaign advertising. Of course, political junkie Ken Rudin is with us, as he is most Wednesdays. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Of course, there is some ads up on the other side of the slate. President Obama issued the first official ad.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It all starts with you, making a decision to get involved, because we've got so much more to do. Call the number on your screen or visit JoinObama.com to let me know you're in.

CONAN: And we all remember the Hope and change flood of ads four years ago. We tend not to remember so much that - about half the ads that President Obama - or candidate Obama - ran were negative.

GOLDSTEIN: There was this great moment - and I thought it was a great moment because I study ads - in the 2000 - the last 2008 debate, when John McCain accused Barack Obama of running the most negative campaign ever, and Barack Obama then accused John McCain of running the most negative campaign ever, and they were both sort of right. As a proportion of ads, McCain was the most negative ever, but Barack Obama actually aired more negative ads than positive ads.

It's just that he aired so many more ads in total than John McCain. I don't think we're going to see very many positive ads from the Democrats this time around. I think it's - in the presidential race. I think it's pretty clear that the campaign they're studying is very much the 2004 Bush campaign. And I would assume their assumption is Barack Obama is well-known, well-liked by some, not well-liked by others, and that their challenge is going to be to try and define the Republican candidate. And the challenge for the Republican candidate is going to be to try and define the Republican candidate.

CONAN: The former speaker, Newt Gingrich, said the - what the campaign he expects is that the president will try to say, look, I may not be so great but look at that other guy. That's pretty much the comparative advertising. And if it's Speaker Gingrich or if it's, for example, Mitt Romney, the two front-runners at the moment, he's going to have a lot of ammunition.

GOLDSTEIN: He's going to have an awful lot of ammunition. Listen, you know, elections in general, and presidential elections, in particular, either about change or no change, rehire the person or not rehire the person. That said, the challenger has to reach a certain threshold level of credibility. And the strategy of the Obama campaign, I think, is to try and make that Republican not meet that threshold level of credibility and partly trying to do that through what's clearly going to be a massive, paid media.

CONAN: There's another tactic that we haven't talked about yet, and that's sort of the oppo research tactic. You go through everybody's everything, anybody has ever said on tape anywhere, anytime, and try to make it look bad for them. And, well, somebody on the, I think, the Democratic side dug up an old clip of Mitt Romney when he was running for governor of Massachusetts.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)

ROMNEY: I think people recognize that I'm not a partisan Republican, that I'm someone who is moderate, and that my views are progressive.

CONAN: Might actually help him in the general election, maybe not so much in Iowa.

GOLDSTEIN: You know, I think that's a really excellent question. That what we're seeing in advertising is candidates in their own words, and we're in the world now because of the cheap video camera or the - or we have cameras in all of our phones, that nothing, nothing a candidate says is not caught on tape, is not - both video and audio. And so I think we talked a little bit before about how you're going to shine through on your message, and I would expect to see the most effective ads of 2012 be the candidate words being used against him in an ad by an opponent.

CONAN: And, Ken, we already saw this on the Republican side, using Barack Obama saying if we keep talking about the economy, we lose. Of course, in the speech where he said that, he was quoting a Republican adviser to John McCain. Accurately or not, everybody has been slinging mud back and forth - but exactly this phenomenon.

RUDIN: Yeah. There are two ways of looking at it. The longer Gingrich versus Romney goes on or whoever the Republican field is, you can make the case that it's worse for the Republican Party, and it damages them in November. But we also saw in 2008, Obama and Hillary Clinton going on for longer than we ever expected, until June, and yet, that didn't seem to hurt the Democratic Party. It seemed to make both Obama and Hillary Clinton better campaigners.

GOLDSTEIN: Yeah. I really think that ultimately the length of the Republican campaign will not have much an impact on what happens in the general election. What's going to have an impact on the general election is - we're all saying it - it's what going on with the economy and whether that Republican is able to reach that certain threshold of - level of credibility. And again, remember all the drama in spring of 2008, Democrats - or the Democrats are going to come back, and Hillary Clinton supporters aren't going to vote for Barack Obama.

CONAN: Yeah. That all changed. Ken Goldstein, president of CMAG at Kantar Media, thanks very much for your time. More with The Political Junkie in just a minute. We'll look at the daisy ad. This is NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CONAN: Right now, political junkie Ken Rudin is still with us. We mentioned a few minutes ago the ongoing evolution of political ads, an evolution that goes back to one TV commercial from five decades ago that sets the tone for much of what we see today.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: One, two, three, four, five, seven, six, six, eight, nine, nine...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, zero.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROCKET LIFT OFF)

PRESIDENT LYNDON JOHNSON: These are the stakes: To make a world in which all of God's children can live or to go into the darkness. We must either love each other, or we must die.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #6: Vote for President Johnson on November 3rd.

CONAN: LBJ's famous "Daisy" ad for the 1964 presidential campaign. Here with us in Studio 3A is Robert Mann, longtime press secretary on Capitol Hill. His new book is called "Daisy Petals, Mushroom Clouds: LBJ, Barry Goldwater, and the Ad that Changed American Politics." Nice to have you with us today.

ROBERT MANN: Thank you, Neal. Good to be with you.

CONAN: And that ad, well, I think everybody remembers it. It ran all of once.

MANN: It did. It ran one time on the night of November 7, 1964, but there are only three networks that day, so 50 million people saw it.

CONAN: I think you got the date wrong.

RUDIN: September.

CONAN: September.

MANN: Yeah. That's what I was going to say. I was going to say...

CONAN: You said November.

MANN: Oh, I'm sorry. Yes. You're right.

CONAN: After the election, it would have been extraordinary.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MANN: I should know to try to slip something by the political junkie.

CONAN: Yes. It ran just once, but everybody talked about it for, I guess, the next 50 years.

MANN: Yes, they did. And I show it in my classes at the Manship School at LSU every year, and young people and old people remember it. They see it. They're very familiar with it. But they're not always aware that it showed only one time and had the impact that it did.

CONAN: Ken?

RUDIN: There are so many things that fascinate me about it. And when Neal just played the ad, I still got the same chills I've gotten for - I mean, I'm not 50 years old yet, but if I were that old, I'd - anyway. First of all, one, Johnson never mentions Barry Goldwater's name. He never mentions his opponent's name.

MANN: No. And, you know, also the spot never shows Johnson's - never shows Goldwater's image nor does it show Johnson's image. It has his name at the end, but it relies on the viewer and the information the viewer had already in his or her head or mind, about Barry Goldwater, and provided context for that information about the reckless talk that Goldwater had engaged in over several years about nuclear weapons and nuclear testing. And it plugged into a narrative that existed about Goldwater and used it in the most creative way that had ever been tried in political advertising and perhaps the most creative way that's ever been done since.

RUDIN: And it wasn't the kind of ad that we were used to seeing. We're used to seeing the I like Ike smiley, happy...

MANN: That's right.

RUDIN: ...face. This was pretty negative, pretty brutal.

MANN: It was. But it - in some ways, it relied on the viewer providing a lot of the negative information because it relied on what they already had. And it was innovative in the sense that it was spot advertising. It was a 60-second spot that came in a time when politicians generally preempted regular programming for 15, 30 minutes and just delivered an abbreviated version of their speech. And this was a new technique.

CONAN: Spoke directly to the camera.

MANN: That's right. Yeah.

CONAN: And this was - could this be described as really the first negative ad?

MANN: Well, in some ways, it is. It's certainly the first use of negative advertising in this creative way. It certainly is not the first time that negative politics was used in presidential campaigning, but it was the first time that a presidential campaign decided to go so hard negative. And it was the first of many negative ads that were ran against Barry Goldwater in that campaign. And it was the first spot of that campaign, which was also unusual for a presidential candidate to start a presidential campaign with negatives instead of the kind of soft positives that campaigns like to use first.

CONAN: Given the outcome of that race, did people draw conclusions about the usefulness of negative advertising?

MANN: Well, I think they did. And I think they drew a lot of conclusions in that, and one was that it was OK. Not only OK, but advantageous to characterize your opponent before he had a chance to do it himself. So before Goldwater could even think about getting off of the mat, the Johnson campaign had pummeled him week after week after week. So that by the end of that month of September 1964, Goldwater was really without a chance in the election.

CONAN: Ken?

RUDIN: If Goldwater's record made that spot legitimate...

MANN: Mm-hmm.

RUDIN: ...why did the Johnson campaign only run it once?

MANN: Well, I asked that just the other night to one of the creators of the spot, and the answer is simply - there's a number of different answers. But I think one is that it did its job. I mean, they reached 50 million people showing it once. And then the - all three television networks very helpfully played it in its entirety later that week, probably reaching another 50 million people. So it's easy to figure out that, probably 50 million or more saw it that week. That was about 80 percent of the electorate at that time. And they had other spots coming right behind it that made much the same point in a - in just as a creative way. And I think they just felt like it did its job. There's - we have more to come, and we're going to use that.

CONAN: But was there a negative reaction to it?

MANN: There was a negative reaction to it. There was a negative reaction to it that they wanted, as a matter of fact. They were hoping and praying that the Goldwater people, the Republican...

CONAN: Cry foul.

MANN: Yeah. They would cry foul, that the Republicans would scream bloody murder, and they did. The Republican leaders in both the House and the Senate got up on the floor and condemned it. They've - the RNC filed an official complaint about it. And secretly, over at the White House, Lyndon Johnson and his campaign aides were applauding all the way because they wanted Goldwater to say, yes. Indeed, that spot is about me.

CONAN: We tend to forget that Lyndon Johnson was, in many ways, the most media-savvy president up until his time. He was the first, I think, to have the three TV sets...

MANN: Yes.

CONAN: ...with the three network feeds, all - that he could see them all at the same time.

MANN: Yes, he was. And the creators of the spot, Doyle Dane Bernbach, which was the Madison Avenue firm that produced the spots, remarked that Johnson was probably the best - one of the best clients they ever had because he understood that it was their job to produce the ads. And he was - it was his job to be the candidate. And he didn't really meddle with their work.

RUDIN: If President Johnson was up 65 to 35 or 68 to, you know, whatever, he had a huge lead in the polls. Was it overkill? I mean, that's, well, you know, with no pun intended though.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MANN: What's...

CONAN: For once.

MANN: What's interesting is that, at the end of that month, when they had ran that spot and a number of others just pummeling Barry Goldwater, Johnson's numbers actually went down in the Gallup polls about four points. And Goldwater's numbers did not change. And so, my belief is that what those spots did was solidify the image of Goldwater as a reckless person who would get the country into a nuclear war. The image was already there. They just raised the fear and solidified the image of Goldwater as a warmonger.

CONAN: Well, Robert Mann, thanks very much for your time today. We appreciate it.

MANN: Thank you.

CONAN: Robert Mann joined us here in Studio 3A. You can read an excerpt from his new book "Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds," at our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Coming up, we'll be talking about investment scams tailored for baby boomers.

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