LRC News

Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Columnist Michael Tomasky Criticizes Obama's Ads

Michael Tomasky, liberal columnist and author, and the editor of Guardian America, has written a column criticizing the Obama campaign ads. Citing Drew Westen's book The Political Brain,, Tomasky argues that Obama's ads are making a mistake by playing to reason rather than emotion. The column also refers to the Democratic's "pretty lame" ads from 2000 and 2004.

Tomasky writes about The Living Room Candidate. From a left-wing perspective, he calls it "a rather depressing collection of Democratic and Republican ads since 1988. Have a look. It would be overstating it to say that the Republican ads are all excellent and the Democratic ads all stink, but the GOP ads as a whole pack a greater punch (and notice how often the GOP ads set the terms and the Democratic ones respond to terms the GOP has set, which is happening this year again)."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008
The Daily Attack: Obama on Lobbyist Ties, McCain on Democratic Indecision

The candidates attempt to chip away at each other with new attack ads combining economic issues with personal attacks and unflattering photographs. The McCain spot, "Mum," uses a woman narrator to scold "liberal" Democrats for not knowing how to respond to the financial crisis. Against a backdrop of Caribbean steel drum music, the Obama ad accuses McCain of giving tax breaks to corporations hiding profits offshore.

McCain ad "Mum:"

Obama ad "Destination:"

Monday, September 22, 2008
Politico Articles Looks at How Campaigns Use "Phony Ads"

With the amazing quantity of ads being released by the campaigns and by advocacy groups, it is important to note that some of these ads barely appear at all on TV. Instead, their prime target audience is the media. Jonathan Martin's article "Campaigns Use Phony Ads To Drive Message" on Politico explores this phenomenon. Martin quotes Republican media consultant Heath Thompson: "With cable news stations, talk radio, and blogs driving news coverage like never before, the advent of the 'video press release' was inevitable...They provide ready-made content for internet, radio, and cable. And because those mediums now drive network coverage as much as the other way around, it allows campaigns to get their message out more than they ever would off a print press release."

Monday, September 22, 2008
National Rifle Association Launches "Gunbanobama" Attack Website and TV Ads

The National Rifle Association has launched a website ( and TV ad campaign to attack the Democractic ticket on the issue of gun control. There are four TV ads on the site; three anti-Obama spots and one attacking Joe Biden. One of the ads refers to Obama's remarks about people feeling "bitter" and "clinging to guns and religion." Obama's remarks were meant to warn about the use of gun control as a wedge issue, which is precisely what the NRA ad campaign does.

Anti-Obama NRA ad "Way of Life:"

While the Obama campaign has not released a TV ad about gun control, it has released this radio ad in eight states, including Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Ohio, with the president of the American Hunters and Shooters Association expressing his support for Obama.

UPDATE (9/25): The Washington Post reports on the NRA's plans to spend more than $10 million on this ad campaign.

Monday, September 22, 2008
Week Begins with New Attack Ads: Obama on Health Care, McCain on "The Chicago Machine"

The Obama and McCain campaigns began the week with new attack ads, respectively portraying each other as "a risk we just can't afford to take," and "not ready to lead." The Obama ad "Article" quotes from a recently published article by McCain citing bank deregulation as a model for the health care industry. McCain's ad "The Chicago Machine" attempts to portray Obama as corrupt by linking him to the Chicago political machine.

Obama ad on health care, "Article:"

McCain ad on corruption, "The Chicago Machine:"

UPDATE: Michael Schaffer reviews the ads for The New Republic.

Monday, September 22, 2008
Advocacy Group "America's Voice" Releases Anti-McCain Immigration Ad

Immigration reform is the main issue of the Washington-based advocacy group "America's Voices," which released this ad attacking McCain's position on the issue, and questioning his ads. The intensity of the recent ads about immigration highlight the importance of the Latino vote, which could play a key role in swing states including New Mexico and Florida.

Sunday, September 21, 2008
SNL Opening Sketch Satirizes McCain's Approval of Miselading Ads

The opening sketch of Saturday Night Live on September 20 featured Darrell Hammond as John McCain. In the sketch, McCain records a voiceover approving campaign ads that are clearly misleading. The requirement for candidates to identify themselves in ads is a direct result of the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. The bill's "stand by your ad" provision mandated that all campaign advertisements include a verbal statement to the effect of "I'm [insert candidate's name] and I approve this message."

Saturday, September 20, 2008
Anti-McCain Ad Posted on YouTube by "Concerned Citizen"

Access to simple computer-based editing software and to a vast library of video news footage online makes it possible for self-identified "concerned citizens" to create their own ads and share them. The attack ad "Thanks John McCain," which uses quotes and footage from the candidate, was posted on YouTube on September 18, along with links to articles to back up the ad's claims. It should be noted that it is also possible for professionals and campaign workers to create and post ads anonymously.

Friday, September 19, 2008
Leslie Savan's Column "Op Ad" Debuts in The Nation

The insightful cultural critic Leslie Savan, author of The Sponsored Life, is writing a column, "Op Ad," about campaign commercials, for The Nation. Her debut column is "Obama More Negative Than McCain?".

Leslie Savan's Living Room Candidate playlist "When Dems Attack" can be seen here.

Friday, September 19, 2008
Barrage of McCain Attack Ads Continues With "Nothing New"

The McCain campaign continued an end-of-the-week barrage of attack ads with this new commercial accusing Obama of being indecisive, portraying his "Present" votes in the Illinois State Senate as indicators of uncertainty rather than as a commonly used legislative tactic.

UPDATE: Fox news sent a cease-and-desist order to the McCain campaign, complaining about the ad because of its unauthorized use of the voice of their newscaster.

Friday, September 19, 2008
McCain Web Ad "Patriotic" Uses Biden Comment About Taxes

A comment by Joe Biden that taxpayers making more than $250,000 should be "patriotic" about their tax rate going up was quickly turned into a Web ad by the McCain campaign. The ad implies that Obama's proposed increase in the tax rate for high-income earner would affect all taxpayers. Republican TV campaign ads since 1952 have accused Democrats of supporting higher taxes.

McCain Web ad "Patriotic:"

Eisenhower ad about taxes, "Sturdy Lifeboat:"

Friday, September 19, 2008
Amateur Video Pokes Fun at McCain Adviser's Blackberry Claim

This voter-generated, independently made video remixes news footage of the media's response to the claim made by an adviser that McCain had a role in the invention of the Blackberry. The claim was quickly debunked, and also was dismissed as a joke by the McCain campaign. Comparisons were quickly made to a similar flap about Al Gore's assertion that he had a role in the development of the Internet.

Independently made video about McCain and Blackberry:

Ad for George Bush in 2000 mocking Al Gore about Internet:

Friday, September 19, 2008
Michigan Ad Links Obama to Disgraced African-American Detroit Mayor

An ad using video footage of Obama expressing his support in May 2007 for Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was created by the right-wing independent group Freedom Defense Fund. Kilpatrick resigned in 2008 after a sex scandal. According to E.J. Dionne, in a Washington Post column on September 19 about the importance of Michigan in the electoral vote, "Obama is counting on a huge African American vote in Detroit, but the city's politics are in turmoil following Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's departure from office yesterday as part of a plea agreement related to perjury charges...a pro-McCain group has run an ad, clearly aimed at white suburban voters, linking Obama and Kilpatrick."

Friday, September 19, 2008
Ad War over Advisers; Time Magazine Cites McCain for Playing Race Card

The unrelenting ad wars continued with duelling ads over the candidates' respective economic advisers. First, the McCain campaign released an ad, "Advice," claiming that former Fannie Mae chairman Frank Raines was one of Obama's key economic advisers. Within hours, Time Magazine's website posted an article by Karen Tumulty arguing that the McCain campaign was playing the race card, with the ad's "sinister images of two black men, followed by one of a vulnerable-looking elderly white woman."

Also within hours, the Obama campaign released a statement about the ad (quoted in the Time article) and a counterattack ad, "Who Advises," questioning McCain's links to three of his economic advisers, Carly Fiorina, Phil Gramm, and, listed as an adviser, President George Bush.

McCain ad "Advice:"

Obama ad "Who Advises:"

UPDATE: The McCain campaign released another ad, "Jim Johnson," accusing Obama of hypocrisy by citing his ties to Jim Johnson, former CEO of Fannie Mae, who was appointed (and later stepped down) as a member of Obama's vice-presidential selection committee.

McCain ad "Jim Johnson:"

Thursday, September 18, 2008
Michigan Mccain Ad on Economy Promises Reform and Change

"Change is Coming," a new slogan from the McCain campaign answering Obama's "Change We Can Believe In" and the more recent and urgent "Change We Need," is the theme of this McCain ad, promising economic reform and responding to Obama's recent spate of ads on economic concerns.

Thursday, September 18, 2008
527 Pro-Choice, Anti-McCain Ad "How Much Time"

The 527 group "Winning Message Action Fund," created by the National Institute of Reproductive Health, released an ad claiming that McCain thinks that Roe v. Wade should be overturned and abortion criminalized.

Thursday, September 18, 2008
McCain Ad "Dome" Evokes Fear of Big Government

The McCain campaign responded to Obama's economy ads with "Dome," which evokes the fear of big government with the image of a large shadow from Washington being cast over a map of the country. Republicans tradionally accuse Democrats of wanting to raise taxes, as in the Reagan ad below about the effect of "Mondalenomics."

McCain ad "Dome" about big government and taxes:

UPDATE (9/19): released a report titled "There He Goes Again" debunking the claims made by the McCain campaign in "Dome."

1984 Reagan ad "Reaganomics:"

Wednesday, September 17, 2008
It's the Economy, Stupid: Three New Obama Ads Hammer Economy Theme

Barack Obama released a flurry of ads today targeting the economic concerns of voters in swing states. One ad, airing in Michigan, focuses on alternative energy sources and McCain's support for tax breaks for oil companies. Another, also airing in Michigan, attacks McCain for his support of George Bush's plans to privatize Social Security. Another ad, for Pennsylvania, attacks McCain for supporting tax cuts for companies that send jobs overseas.

Obama's Michigan ad on alternative energy:

Obama's ad on Social Security:

Obama Ad "Sold Us Out" about outsourcing:

Democrats have often claimed that Republicans will damage Social Security. This 1964 ad "Social Security" is from Lyndon Johnson's campaign against Barry Goldwater:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Obama Spanish-Language Ad Attacks McCain as "Two-Faced" on Immigration

The Obama campaign released a Spanish-language TV ad, "Dos Caras," which accuses John McCain of being two-faced when it comes to Latino voters. The ad associates McCain with harsh anti-immigrant comments made by Rush Limbaugh. The ad will air in the closely contested swing states of Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada, all of which have large Hispanic populations. On the day the ad was released, McCain made a gaffe with the Hispanic press by not expressing support for the Prime Minister of Spain.

Spanish-language ads have been used in many elections since 1960, when Jackie Kennedy appeared in the ad below.

UPDATE (9/19)The McCain campaign released a Spanish-language ad attacking Obama for suggesting that he would "meet with Hugo Chavez without conditions."

McCain ad "Obama Chavez:"

Translation into English:

Narrator: Did you see who Obama wants to talk with?

Chavez: Go to h*ll, you filthy Yankees!

Narrator: Barack Obama says that he would meet Chavez without conditions.

Chavez: Filthy Yankees, go to h*ll hundred times!

Narrator: He said he would meet in his first year in office.

Chavez: The United States which is behind every conspiracy against our country.

Narrator: He said it was a disgrace that we haven't spoken with them.

Chavez: If any aggression were to come against Venezuela, then there will be no oil for people or the government of the Unites States!

Narrator: Do you believe we should talk with Chavez?

ChavezC: We, you filthy Yankees, know that we are resolute to be free, no matter what happens, and at any cost!

Narrator: In November, you decide.

John McCainJ: I'm John McCain and I approved this message.

Narrator: Paid for by McCain-Palin 2008. Approved by John McCain.

ANNCR: Paid for by McCain-Palin 2008. Approved by John McCain.

1960 Kennedy Ad "Mrs. JFK" with the candidate's wife Speaking Spanish:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008
John Dickerson's Favorite Living Room Candidate Ads

John Dickerson, the Chief Political Correspondent for SlateV, has created a playlist of his favorite ads from The Living Room Candidate. SlateV's video piece about the playlist is below. You may also read Dickerson's playlist here.