Many had assumed that Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers would be the star of Republican advertisements throughout the summer. That didn’t happen, it’s now October and we’re still waiting for the Wright bombshell to drop - but will it ever? We might be seeing the first hints of such a move.
An independent group aired an ad campaign starring Ayers in late August, and another independent group, the Judicial Confirmation Network, has just released a spot tying Obama to Rezko, Ayers and Wright. The group says it will spend $1 million airing the ad in relatively inexpensive media markets across Ohio and Michigan, so this could very well be seen by voters in key swing states:
But $1 million will not get the job done against a candidate who still has high favorability ratings. In the absence of powerful outside groups, McCain and the RNC would have to take it upon themselves to attack Obama for his connection to Wright - something they have not approached for now, though Politico reports that many GOP activists and state party leaders are urging McCain to be more aggressive and start using those attacks.
Has the McCain campaign done a conscious decision to not invoke Rev. Wright, or are they simply waiting to unleash a torrent of negative ads in the last stretch of the election? And even if the former, can McCain really resist doing so if he continues to lag so far behind? After all, he is now trailing by substantive margins and there are very few opportunities left for him to change the momentum. To be fair to McCain, however - and this is certainly important to note - there is no evidence that his campaign has been looking to bring up Wright.
But do any of this actually matter? We are now in early October, five weeks from the election. Early voting started two weeks ago in some states: Is it not already too late for Wright and Ayers to make an impact, and was the moment to step in and attempt to define Obama not during the summer?
A crucial thing to remember here is that neither Wright nor Ayers will be fresh revelations, and neither can save McCain at the 11th hour like George W. Bush’s DUI scoop breaking in the final days of the 2000 campaign. The GOP cannot expect to just invoke Wright and ignite a media firestorm overnight. This is not to say that Wright in particular will not hurt Obama, but simply that it would take time for the GOP to damage him using this. He would need to relentlessly pound Obama in order to disqualify him, and he cannot simply drop an ad buy on October 25th.
One thing that might be holding back McCain is that the Obama campaign must have response ads stored up, ready to be launched at the minute Wright is used in a McCain or RNC spot. And just as Obama has connections McCain is not exploiting, so does Obama - the Keating Five has barely been mentioned all year even though the scandal nearly destroyed McCain’s career. And while it might seem like it dates too far back to be relevant, the recent financial crisis has made it as relevant as it could be - and if the candidates launch Ayers/Keating ads against each other, they would be hard pressed to make the “old news” argument.
An independent group (Public Campaign Fund) has just produced an ad hitting McCain on Keating, but it doesn’t look like this group will have much money to air this spot (while the Judicial Confirmation Network at least has some strength to put behind its buy). The ad is also rather confusing, testifying to the problem that Keating is a confusing enough scandal that it is hard to fit in a 30-second spot - and it’s not like most voters remember the details of the controversy.
(And speaking of ads by independent groups, this spot by the California Nurses Association raises the possibility Sarah Palin might be president with a “one heartbeat away” ad that is anything but subtle. And whatever you think of the argument - and it’s doubtful any voter will ever see the ad - the production value is shockingly low.)
Coming up later today - eight other questions that will matter in the final stretch of the election.