McCain Releases New Biographical Ad John McCain's new ad, Love, plays up his service in Vietnam and his record as a maverick. It also targets Barack Obama's message of hope. Jonathan Martin, a writer at Politico, says though the ad is an attempt to reach a wider audience, it's also a gamble.

McCain Releases New Biographical Ad

McCain Releases New Biographical Ad

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John McCain's new ad, Love, plays up his service in Vietnam and his record as a maverick. It also targets Barack Obama's message of hope. Jonathan Martin, a writer at Politico, says though the ad is an attempt to reach a wider audience, it's also a gamble.


From time to time during this presidential campaign, we cast an ear to the ads of the candidates that are running. And today, we're joined by reporter John Martin of Politico to talk about the latest biographical ad from John McCain. We'll be talking about an ad from Barack Obama tomorrow.

Jonathan Martin, welcome to the program.

Mr. JONATHAN MARTIN (Senior Political Writer, Thanks for having me.

BLOCK: And let's listen to this new John McCain ad. It's a minute long titled "Love," and here's the very beginning.

(Soundbite of political advertisement)

Unidentified Man: It was a time of uncertainty, hope and change - the summer of love. Half a world away, another kind of love - of country - John McCain, shot down, bayoneted, tortured.

BLOCK: Now right there from the top, Jonathan, they're setting up a contrast between hippies kissing and embracing, and then war hero…

Mr. MARTIN: Right.

BLOCK: …on a bed with his war injuries…

Mr. MARTIN: Right.

BLOCK: …in Vietnam.

Mr. MARTIN: Exactly. And what's happening here is the McCain folks are trying to frame this campaign as a one of a (unintelligible), a politician who has sacrificed for his country both in uniform and also politically, and more recently has sacrificed to try and get things done and walking across party lines to do so. So that's sort of the frame.

The danger, I think, with this ad and with that kind of imagery, there is a pattern in this country of voters casting their ballots against war heroes and against veterans. That's not enough. It's a good frame from which to start, but it can't be just that. He can't run only on biography and on personal honor. It's got to be about voters and about their issues.

You know, if he just asked Bush (unintelligible) in '92 or Bob Dole in '96, they can tell you having those sort of decorations and valorous ribbons is not enough to win a campaign on.

BLOCK: But here is where the ad takes a turn because the ads are talking about John McCain, calling him a maverick.

Mr. MARTIN: That's right.

BLOCK: It says, he believes our world is dangerous, our economy in shambles.

Mr. MARTIN: I was really struck by that, too. I mean, in shambles is a pretty strong phrase for somebody who is a Republican running to succeed a two-term GOP president. But it's a recognition of the challenge that is out there right now politically for any candidate but especially a Republican that's running in this climate.

And again, what McCain is trying to do there is sort of bridge the gap between his Vietnam service and his political life, trying to make the point that he is somebody who has sacrificed for his country both in uniform and politics, and he gets at that by talking about being a maverick. He didn't bring that up much during the course of the GOP primary. He focused, rather, on his conservative credentials.

But now, obviously, pivoting to the general election, he wants voters to know he's not in lockstep with George W. Bush and he has stepped out from his party. Just in the same fashion that he has sacrificed for his country, he has sacrificed his political prospects at times to try and do what he thinks is right. So it's all of the sort of same thread.

BLOCK: This notion of taking on, as he says in his ad, presidents and partisans, though…

Mr. MARTIN: Right.

BLOCK: How does that play with the conservative base in the general election?

Mr. MARTIN: Well, it's not going to please some of them. But I think McCain is at the point where he recognizes that he's got to persuade a lot of centrist voters, independent voters, to support him, and that that's where this campaign could be won or lost. The gamble is that the conservative base may not like John McCain all that much, but they will suck it up and come out and vote for him because the alternative is worse. That's a bit of a gamble, but it's one that the McCain folks are taking in trying to reach out to the sort of broad middle.

BLOCK: Okay. Here's the final turn the ad takes. This is the very end of the John McCain ad.

(Soundbite of political advertisement)

Unidentified Man: John McCain doesn't always tell us what we hope to hear. Beautiful words cannot make our lives better, but a man who has always put his country and her people before self, before politics, can. Don't hope for a better life, vote for one.

BLOCK: It's a beautiful word, hope.

Mr. MARTIN: Twice.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: I mean, without naming Barack Obama, he is taking him on.

Mr. MARTIN: I can't imagine him talking about that, yeah. They say the word hope, actually, twice there also at the very top of the ad, too, and talking about how the '60s were a time of hope as well. And that's clearly a knock at Barack Obama's calling card as is the swipe at beautiful words. That's basically a concession that look, Obama sounds good, we cuts a good sort of image, but this is someone who doesn't have the substance to back it up, and our guy does and here are the reasons why.

But again, this is a gamble. The fact is, in politics, perception oftentimes is reality, and the McCain folks are trying to make the case that Obama talks the talk but doesn't necessarily walk the walk. But as Hillary Clinton can tell you, that's not necessarily an argument that carries weight with a lot of voters who are right now in the market for change. They want something, new, fresh and different, and Obama is certainly giving that to them right now.

What's fascinating, what could ultimately determine the course of the race is, will their argument hold more water with a general electorate versus a Democratic primary electorate? We know certainly now the Democratic liberal base really fell for that sort of Obama, new change message. But is that going to resonate across the board with sort of apolitical voters or independent voters?

BLOCK: Jonathan Martin, thanks very much.

Mr. MARTIN: Thanks for having me.

BLOCK: Jonathan Martin, senior political writer with Politico. And tomorrow, we'll talk with Jonathan about a recent ad from Barack Obama.

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