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Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Comment::start_lvl() should be compatible with Walker::start_lvl(&$output) in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/comment-template.php on line 1266

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Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Comment::start_el() should be compatible with Walker::start_el(&$output) in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/comment-template.php on line 1266

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Comment::end_el() should be compatible with Walker::end_el(&$output) in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/comment-template.php on line 1266

Strict Standards: Redefining already defined constructor for class WP_Dependencies in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/class.wp-dependencies.php on line 31

Strict Standards: Redefining already defined constructor for class WP_Http in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/http.php on line 61

Strict Standards: Non-static method K2::init() should not be called statically in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-content/themes/k2/functions.php on line 31

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Strict Standards: call_user_func_array() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, non-static method K2Options::init() should not be called statically in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/plugin.php on line 339

Strict Standards: call_user_func_array() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, non-static method K2Header::init() should not be called statically in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/plugin.php on line 339

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Strict Standards: array_filter() expects parameter 2 to be a valid callback, non-static method K2::strip_trackback() should not be called statically in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-content/themes/k2/app/classes/k2.php on line 458
Category Archive for ‘Ads’ at Campaign Diaries
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Archive for the 'Ads' Category


Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

McCain’s unaired Wright ad

For months, we waited for the McCain campaign to unveil an offensive on Barack Obama’s ties to Jeremiah Wright. Yet, the Arizona Senator stuck to his spring pledge to keep Wright off-limits (besides Sarah Palin’s seemingly improvised decision to bring up Wright in an interview with Bill Kristol). Only in the final days did independent groups launch a flurry of ads featuring Wright - too little and too late to stop Obama’s momentum.

After the election, as McCain staffers revealed their secrets to eager journalists, we learned that the campaign had actually produced a number of negative ads that never aired - one featuring Obama dancing with Ellen DeGeneres, another unleashing the Wright attack.

Today, ABC News obtained and aired that unaired Wright ad, offering us a remarkable look into what might have been had McCain given his green light (the ad itself starts at 1:14):

The ad is framed around the issue of character - a key theme of McCain’s campaign - and seeks to contrast decisions made by Obama and McCain “when no one was looking.” While “one chose to honor his fellow soldiers by refusing to walk out of a prisoner of war camp,” says the announcer, “the other chose not to even walk out of church where a pastor was spewing hatred.” We then see footage of Wright’s famous “God Damn America” sermon.

It is impossible to know whether such an offensive would have truly damaged Obama, but there is no doubt that it would have fundamentally altered the course of the campaign. Yes, Republicans focused their campaign on Bill Ayers in the first half of October and thus used the type of guilt-by-association attack that the Wright ad would have played into - and that did them little good.

But invoking Wright would have injected race in the general election in a way in which both campaigns ultimately managed to avoid. In fact, it was rather surprising how little race was discussed; an early August war over Obama’s use of the race card threatened to throw the entire election into the dangerous territory of racial polarization and the topic had proved such a vivid one during the Democratic primaries.

Both campaigns could have lost a lot had race become a more explicit campaign theme. On the one hand, McCain could have suffered a severe backlash; on the other, Obama’s success was partially due to his ability to neutralize racial conversations, and a sudden increase in racial polarization could have hurt his appeal to culturally conservative white Democrats and independents - groups that ended up massively voting for him but that were not sure to do so during the summer.

In other words, this ad would have been fairly unpredictable but sure to attract so much attention as to monopolize the conversation for a significant amount of time.


Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

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Quite a day: Obama celebrates Americana, Bill offers testimony and GOP attacks on experience

We might be in the final stretch of the election, but it feels like we are right back in the middle of August - when Barack Obama was being called “Barack America” by his running mate and John McCain, unencumbered by Sarah Palin, based his entire campaign on blasting Obama’s lack of experience.

We won’t know whether Barack Obama’s 30-minute infomercial has any impact until we get a sense of how many people watched it. But at the very least it allowed Obama to suck all of the oxygen out of the room - a huge benefit given that McCain needs to exploit every single minute of the next five days to turn the tide and discredit Obama.

With this massive ad buy (followed by Obama’s first joint event with Bill Clinton), Obama controlled the entire news cycle - not to mention that tonight’s events will continue being discussed tomorrow, shutting down McCain for a while longer.

The infomercial was meant to reassure those who still harbor doubts about the Democratic nominee, make them see him as a familiar, comforting and typically American figure. “My mother, she told herself,” says Obama in the video, “my son is an American so he has to understand what that means.” American flags were on display throughout the 30 minutes, and the video was filled with the touching (and often tragic) stories of middle-class Americans.

The video was able to create a sense of connection between Obama and the average voters who were showcased by having Obama be the narrator of their life stories. Not only did that make Obama seem personally invested in helping the middle class, it also created a powerful connector between the ad’s personal segments and those devoted to substantive discussions. The infomercial made Obama’s policy proposals look like direct responses to the plight of the middle class.

It is no coincidence that bread and butter issues were at the center of this video. Sure, there was a segment devoted to national security, but the main themes were health care (a lot of health care), education, taxes, jobs - all issues that are the chief reason Obama is in such a commanding position, issues that have helped move Reagan Democrats to Obama’s side, issues that have greatly contributed in pushing a large number of disaffected Republicans in the undecided column.

Tonight’s segment was not meant to get out of the vote or energize the base, it was Obama’s final  attempt to make his case to undecided voters - most of which at this point lean conservative. The Obama we saw tonight was the pragmatist problem-server of the 2004 convention speech and of the beginning of the primary campaign, not the more partisan Obama of the past few months. From now on, both campaigns are likely to switch to GOTV and focus on motivating the base; the last few days before Election Day are not the time in which campaigns go after undecided voters.

All of this said, I don’t think the infomercial was a home-run for Obama either. For one, we will have to see whether there is some backlash among the electorate - after all, the McCain campaign has been accusing the Democrat of being too excessive for months now. Obama’s attempts to make himself look presidential might vindicate in the minds of some voters the GOP’s argument that the Democratic nominee think he has already won the election: It almost looked like Obama was addressing the nation from the Oval Office! And while the video’s production quality was undoubtedly top notch, some parts seemed a bit disjointed.

But Obama had another opportunity tonight to reassure the voters who are looking to vote for him but are worried about this or that attribute: his first joint appearance with Bill Clinton. The former President off delivered a great performance, and all of his political skills were focused on offering the most sincere sounding testimony on behalf of the man who beat his wife. Clinton was half-turned towards Obama and half-turned towards the audience, creating a bond between the two that only a politician as talented as Clinton could portray on demand.

Clinton looked fully committed to convincing viewers that Obama was ready to take on his legacy - and the fact that such a direct testimony did not come for months made it all the more powerful. (Of course, Clinton has a personal stake in this as well, as he wants to regain his position as a popular elder within the Democratic Party. Obama returned the favor by repeatedly emphasizing how strong the country was during Clinton’s presidency, something he was not so willing to say a year ago.)

Meanwhile, the RNC and the McCain campaign are making a last ditch effort at disqualifying Obama - and they are pushing hard on an argument they abandoned in late August and picked up again two weeks with the RNC’s empty chair spot: experience. The first ad, released by the McCain campaign, makes its argument as clearly as possible - Obama “lacks the experience” and he is “not ready” - and closes with a curious word - “yet:”

The ad is very similar to one the McCain campaign released last week, the main difference being the use of the word “yet.” I agree with Chuck Todd that “yet” is directed at those voters who want the change Obama represents but are afraid that he is too much of a risk today: He will still get his chance, the ad is saying.

The RNC’s ad, meanwhile, is more brutal because it intends to raise voters’ adrenaline by getting them afraid about the future:

The problem for the GOP is that voters feel more comfortable with Obama than they did a month ago and that these ads might be coming too late.  As I explained last week, the McCain campaign is solely responsible for having abandoned an argument that was working - but abandon it they did. In fact, the financial crisis helped Obama close the gap on the experience question.

Obama and McCain were tested in the middle of September, and most October polls have shown that voters gave McCain very low marks on his handling of the situation and that they came away with the impression that Obama was more apt at handling a crisis than his opponent! Given that startling change in public opinion, these new ads are as likely to backfire on McCain as they are to hurt Obama.


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McCain takes us back to experience, warns of all-blue DC and remains obsessed with Iowa

With its back against the wall, the McCain campaign is still not invoking Wright - but it is leaving behind all nuance in its latest ad. The stop uses Joe Biden’s recent comments on a coming international crisis to bring the conversation back to national security and experience:

Whenever a campaign uses footage of Chavez, Ahmadinejad, of men marching with rifle and of cataclysmic international circumstances, there is great risk that it could fall in Rudy Giuliani territory and give fodder to critics that charge that Republicans are using fear tactics. But beyond those questions of appropriateness, the biggest problem of McCain’s latest offensive is - and I have said this many times already, but I cannot emphasize this enough - consistency.

It might not be McCain’s fault that national security hasn’t been a dominant issue in the fall campaign. But they are solely responsible for having abandoned the experience argument. On September 6th, I wrote a puzzled post about McCain’s “revolutionary departure from what we expected the GOP’s general election argument to be.” The campaign’s primary argument no longer concerned readiness to lead - the theme of McCain’s summer attacks. Forget experience, forget familiarity, forget patriotism, the GOP started to say: Even if voters just think about who represents true change, they should settle on McCain.

Seven weeks later, McCain’s has made no progress in his efforts to claim the change mantle, and the main weapon he had to voice that argument (Sarah Palin) is now far more of a liability than an asset with swing voters. The change argument has failed, the McCain campaign is trailing by double-digits in a number of polls - and now we go back to the experience argument?

What is particularly tragic for Republicans is that McCain’s attacks on Obama’s readiness were resonating during the summer: the race tightened considerably between the launch of the celebrity ads and the Democratic convention, and Hillary voters were drifting away from Obama. But by picking Sarah Palin and abandoning the experience argument, the GOP gave Obama nearly two months to reassure voters and make himself familiar to them. He was steady at the debates and throughout the financial meltdown. As a result, recent national polls show that the public now trusts Obama more than McCain to handle a major crisis.

Not only did McCain’s abandoning the experience argument prevent him from landing solid blows for weeks, it also let Obama’s readiness go unchallenged for weeks, making it far more difficult for Republicans to suddenly pick up where they left off at the end of August.

McCain’s second closing argument is a warning that an Obama election would mean undivided Democratic government. “The answer to a slowing economic is not higher taxes,” said McCain today. “But that’s exactly what’s going to happen when the Democrats have total control of Washington. We can’t let that happen.” McCain went on to attack Barney Frank, in an obvious attempt to link Obama to congressional Democrats and play on the GOP’s new talking points of running against what they call the Obama-Pelosi-Reid “triumvirate.”

There are a two problems with this strategy, however. First, we have seen over the past few months that voters are currently looking at Washington as a Republican stronghold and are not taking into account the Democratic majorities in Congress. There is no evidence that 2008 will be an anti-incumbent year targeting Democratic and Republican representatives alike; there is every evidence that it will be an anti-Republican year, making McCain’s argument warning against the perils of giving more power to congressional Democrats harder for voters to accept.

Second, voters think of the presidential election as the primary one, and it is not likely that many will decide on their presidential choice based on who is controlling Congress. The process usually works the other way around! And congressional Republicans fully intend to take advantage of that, as some candidates are now starting to run on the assumption of an Obama presidency to warn voters to not give him too large congressional powers. As I noted yesterday, a new NRSC ad in NC tells voters that a Hagan victory would mean Democratic control of all levels of government. Even Democratic-leaning papers are being swayed by this argument; the Oregonian, for instance, endorsed Gordon Smith because of its concerns that a 60-seat Democratic majority would lead to excesses.

It won’t be easy for McCain to make an argument against undivided government if congressional Republicans continue voicing their own version of that warning.

But the most incredible of McCain’s strategic decisions has to be his obsession with Iowa. Sarah Palin will hold two of her three rallies tomorrow in Iowa, while McCain will be campaigning in New Mexico, another state that is a likely Obama pick-up. Then, McCain will be holding an event in Iowa himself on Sunday before traveling to Ohio. I understand that Iowa is in between New Mexico and Ohio, but so is Missouri, a far more competitive state in all recent polls.

It is one thing for the McCain campaign to pin a lot of its hopes on Pennsylvania despite most polls suggesting that Obama has a double-digit lead; after all, McCain needs to make a stand somewhere, Pennsylvania doesn’t have early voting and it is unclear whether McCain has any hope of winning without picking it up.But McCain’s commitment to regularly traveling to the Hawkeye State is incomprehensible.


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Ad wars: Obama hits “erratic” McCain, GOP runs to Chambliss’s rescue

The Obama campaign has been hinting at this line of attack for weeks, but they had not made the temperament argument this clearly yet. Obama’s latest attack ad, which has already started airing in battleground states, faults McCain’s behavior over the past few weeks as an “erratic” one. “Yes, McCain’s been erratic. What he hasn’t been is on your side,” says the narrator:

It is remarkable that Democrats are now the ones pursuing character-related contrasts, though it is certainly not surprising. It is fair to say that McCain’s decision to suspend dramatically backfired, leaving the impression of a candidate who makes decisions too promptly and does not stick to them. Worse still, this move solidified the narrative of a desperate GOP willing to do anything it took to destabilize Obama - and that made it that much more difficult for the McCain campaign to go on the attack subsequently.

Polls show that McCain’s behavior over the past five weeks and this meme of a campaign that constantly reinvents himself has damaged voters’ view of the Arizona Senator and has contributed to a decline in his favorability ratings. This is certainly not surprising, as the view of an “erratic” and opportunistic McCain undercuts the most appealing attribute of the McCain brand - his image as a straight-talker. It is thus no surprise that the Obama campaign is seeking to push its advantage on this issue and play on voters’ new questions about the Republican nominee.

Meanwhile, Defenders of Wildlife PAC is back with a second ad attacking Sarah Palin. All those who saw it surely remember the one-minute spot the group aired last month blasting Palin for her support of aerial wolf hunting. This time, they hit Palin’s indifference to the plight of polar bears. It is unclear how big the ad buy will be - if it airs at all - but it is certainly one of the most entertaining outside advertising efforts of the cycle:

Senate: The DSCC’s latest ads mostly recycle old attacks in terms that are very similar to ads that have been running for months. This is most noticeable in their new “running man” ad against Norm Coleman, a spot that is essentially a remake of an earlier ad (The DSCC’s new ads against Wicker and against Dole also contain little we haven’t seen before):

The NRSC, by contrast, is upping the volume of its own attacks and leaving out any attempt at nuance, a strategy that yields both risks and rewards but that is obviously the mark of a party that has so much to lose it can no longer afford not go all-out. The NRSC’s new ad against Landrieu, for instance, ties her to Jack Abramoff and hits her as “one corrupt politician” (an attempt to turn the tables on Democrats’ labeling John Kennedy “one confused politician”):

In Minnesota, the NRSC is out with a hard-hitting ad against Al Franken which lays out their argument as clearly as possible. It refers to all of the scandals that have been aired about the former comedian over the past few months, uses the word “pornography” a couple of times and invokes statements made by Democrats against Franken, including those strangely brutal primary ads run by Priscilla Lord Faris:

But the most interesting recent Senate expenditures are happening in Georgia, a state no one would have really predicted would be this competitive a month ago but where both party committees are now invested. In fact, the NRSC released two ads that will now air in the state attacking Jim Martin over the GOP’s favorite issue - taxes (the same spots might as well have been shot against Kay Hagan). One spot accuses Martin of being responsible for the middle class’s dire economic situation, while the other informs viewers about the “real Jim Martin:”

It is amazing news for Democrats that the NRSC now feels forced to rush in to Chambliss’s defense. The Republican committee does not have that much funds, especially compared to its Democratic counterpart, and they have a lot of seats to defend. Whatever money they are spending is less money they can spend in more obviously competitive seats like New Hampshire, Minnesota, Oregon or Mississippi.

The same is true of Freedom’s Watch, the group Republicans were hoping would stand-in for the NRCC or the NRSC in some of the races in which the official GOP committees do not have the funds to invest. Now, even Freedom’s Watch is spending its money on states like Georgia that weren’t on our radar screen a few weeks ago. (Here is Freedom’s Watch ad, which is all about Chambliss and does not mention Martin, a rare positive ad by a third-party group).

One last interesting factor to keep in mind is that a substantial portion of Georgia’s electorate (more than 20% of the total number of 2004 voters) have already voted, so all these last-minute expenditures are trying to influence a rapidly shrinking portion of the electorate.


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Inexperience, welfare, terrorism and driver’s licenses: 18 days to attack

The McCain campaign has been unable to develop a cohesive attack, and the GOP’s growing sense of desperation is likely to make their offense only more chaotic. With 18 days to go before Election Day and no obvious event looming that could change the direction of the race, Republicans know that they need to disqualify Obama - and that means throwing all their arguments at him and seeing what sticks. Today saw a multi-pronged attack on Obama by the McCain campaign, the RNC and third party groups on a wide variety of issues.

Trouble is, that does not make for a very consistent campaign, nor the one that voters necessarily want to hear when the financial crisis is showing little sign of resolution.

First, the RNC’s independent expenditure arm unearthed the issue of Obama’s experience. A new ad features an empty chair in the Oval Office and asks voters whether they would trust Obama to sit in it in times of crisis:

The problem for the GOP, of course, is that voters feel more comfortable with Obama than they did a month ago and all polls indicate that they trust the Democrat to deal with a financial crisis more than they trust McCain. That is due first to the Democrats’ natural edge on the economy and second to McCain’s much-ridiculed behavior during the bailout negotiations. But it is also due to the fact that the McCain campaign simply stopped pushing the experience argument at the end of August when Sarah Palin chose the campaign.

Instead of framing the election as change v. experience (and there were signs that the celebrity ads were working), McCain chose to contest Obama’s mantle of change (which did not work out so well). Not even in the debates did McCain frontally challenge Obama’s readiness, which is what makes it so strange that the RNC has suddenly decided to reintroduce this angle of attack with little to no preparation, 18 days from the election.

If the GOP wanted to make this election about Obama’s readiness to lead, it should not have abandoned that argument for the past six weeks and allowed the Democrat to gain the electorate’s trust.

Second, the McCain campaign sought to push the argument that Obama is so far to the left that he is using code words for socialism - particularly when it comes to the traditionally Republican issue of taxes. This was the line of attack McCain privileged for much of the third debate, and it actually put Obama on the defensive for the first 30 minutes. Now, a new McCain ad features the exchange between Obama and Samuel Joe-the-Plumber Wurzelbacher, highlights Obama’s “spreading the wealth around” comment and accuses him of wanting to raise taxes - and wanting to promote welfare:

McCain invoking welfare could mark a new development in the presidential race. For the past few months, his campaign has mostly stayed away from the most racially charged issues that Republicans have often used to racialize a campaign when running against an African-American candidate: crime and welfare. The fact that these two issues are far less central to the political discussion today than they were in the early 90s greatly facilitates Obama’s presidential ambitions. Are these repeated references to welfare an attempt at a racial argument?

Third, there are the robocalls, and they are out in force this week. TPM has been doing an admirable job at collecting the messages that are being currently being delivered to thousands of voters in swing states, and there is nothing subtle in the robocalls’ arguments. One charges that Obama is not looking to protect the country from terrorism:

“Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats aren’t who you think they are. They say they want to keep us safe, but Barack Obama said the threat we face now from terrorism is nowhere near as dire as it was in the end of the Cold War. And Congressional Democrats now want to give civil rights to terrorists.”

Why does the first sentence use the term “who” since the rest of the message seemingly attacks Democrats for minimizing the threat rather than being active participants in any dangerous act? It is a way to channel the question Republicans have been asking at rallies over the past two weeks (”Who is Barack Obama?”) and float around the vague and implicit possibility that there is something about him (and not just about his national security policies) that he is not telling voters. Appropriately enough, a second robocall links Obama to “domestic terrorist Bill Ayers” (listen to it here):

“You need to know that Barack Obama has worked closely with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, whose organization bombed the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, a judge’s home, and killed Americans. And Democrats will enact an extreme leftist agenda if they take control of Washington. Barack Obama and his democratic allies lack the judgment to lead our country.”

Ben Smith reports that these robocalls are not just a bluff to get the media’s attention. They have been playing in a wide range of swing states (at least WI, NM, VA, ME, FL, MO, NC, OH, IN and PA). This means that this robocall is the most intensive effort yet to tell voters about Ayers.

Fourth, try the kitchen sink approach: bring up any issue that could possibly derail Obama, especially issues no one has brought up until now. This relies on outside groups stepping in and willing to do the dirty job the McCain campaign would prefer not to undertake. Today brought such a group: the National Republican Trust PAC launched an ad today hitting Obama for supporting granting driving licenses to immigrants who are in the country illegally. The ad, which appears to be starting with a modest buy in Ohio, argues that the policy Obama supports is what allowed the 9-11 terrorist to organize the operation:

The point of the kitchen sink approach, of course, is that you never know what might strike a cord with voters. To the extent that illegal immigration is tied to job concerns in voters’ mind, driving licenses are an issue that could resonate with voters. And while the ad goes so far to make its case that it risks losing its credibility, outside groups with little money have to produce provocative ads and hope that the media picks it up and gives it added importance. Some Republican operatives are hoping that some 527 takes it upon itself to invoke Reverend Wright.

Overall, the GOP’s final message remains muddied, but that is first and foremost because there are so many messengers, none of which are allowed to communicate with each other. The RNC’s independent expenditure division is not allowed to talk to McCain strategists to see whether they would rather push an experience argument, a change one or even whether the McCain campaign has data on the effectiveness of attacking Obama’s experience. Is it any wonder, then, that the GOP’s attacks remain largely incoherent?

18 days from Election Day, Republicans have no more time to games and it is urgent for them to find an attack meme that will finally stick.


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Here we go: RNC attacks Obama on Ayers, troopergate report comes out tomorrow

We had been waiting for this ad for days now, and we had gotten to wondering whether it would come at all as the GOP appeared to have scaled back its commitment to attacking Obama directly on the Ayers connection and instead was pushing the press to take up the matter. No longer: McCain used very tough language today, declaring on Charlie Gibson that Americans “will care” about Ayers. “I have every right to insist that he be candid and truthful with the American people,” he said. “And he needs to be asked about it, and he needs to be forthcoming.”

And tonight, the RNC’s independent expenditure arm is out with the first ad released by an outside group to hit Obama on Ayers. The RNC had already aired an ad hitting Obama for his ties to Rezko - but Ayers had not been mentioned. This spot hits Obama for doing things the “Chicago way,” by which is meant corruption and radical politics:

And there goes the dynamite! Ayers is one of the GOP’s main silver bullets - or so they hope - and they have connected him with other figures of Obama’s past to connect Ayers to other talking points and attempt to paint an overarching portrait of Obama as a risky choice that Americans do not know enough about. Enough voters harbor doubts about Obama (as was evidenced by his weakness in general election polling among registered Democrats for much of the spring and summer) that this wave of attacks could work by feeding preexisting perceptions.

And this effort will certainly not be nuanced: McCain surrogate and former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating brought up Obama’s past drug use and  called him a former “guy of the street.” (How can that not be described as a racial reference? when was Obama a guy of the street? when he was in Hawaii, when he went to Columbia and Harvard, or when he was an Ivy League graduate in the South Side?) a stark reminder of how tame the primary season was. The one Clinton official to bring up Obama’s drug use, Bill Shaheen, had to resign from the campaign).

A few issues the McCain camp should worry about, however:

  1. Was the McCain campaign ready for this, and did they know it was coming? The spot comes from the RNC’s independent expenditure division, which is not allowed to coordinate efforts with the McCain campaign, so does it correspond to the McCain campaign’s wishes? (This is precisely the reason that I have long said that Obama’s money is worth more than the combined sum of RNC and McCain’s dollars, since there isn’t one Republican group that can control the message.) On the other hand, this could allow McCain to not have to defend the ad as his own (though RNC expenditures are certainly closer to home than 501s or 527s).
  2. The RNC’s ads will only air in a few states; it has been confirmed that it will go up in IN and WI (and previous RNC independent buys never aired in more than 6 states, one of which was Michigan). So is this a real and full buy or is it one that is only designed to get the media talking? Furthermore, will the McCain campaign release a similar ad targeted at other competitive states?
  3. The circumstances of the ad’s release highlight once again the difficult position the GOP is in right now. They were surely hoping the ad would create some splash and put Ayers on the front page - but the Dow plunged more than 600 points today, meaning that the stock market has crashed about 1700 points since the beginning of the week. The constant drip of dismal economic news guarantees that the economy remains the top story - and obscures anything else.

Meanwhile, Democrats might get an opportunity to put the McCain campaign on the defensive tomorrow, as the troopergate report will be released. The Alaska Supreme Court had agreed to hear the case of Republicans who were arguing that the case had now become politicized and the investigative committee should not be allowed to go public with its findings, but the court just rejected the GOP’s plea, paving the way for the Legislative Council’s investigator to release the Troopergate report tomorrow.

Today, reports emerged of a sworn statement Todd Palin gave to the investigative team in which he awknowledged having talked to a dozen of state officials in an effort to get Mike Wooten fired. That said, it is of course impossible to know what the report will conclude, but it could prove embarassing for the McCain campaign at a time it was finally looking to move past the Palin distractions. At this point, the two vice-presidential nominees are secondary characters, and they will only have an impact if they make a gaffe or are implicated in a large controversy, and we have known from the very first minute Palin was selected that troopergate had the potential to be the latter. It is a risk the McCain campaign took (though questions remain about how much they vetting they had done) and they will know tomorrow whether it backfires even more than it already has.


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Ad wars: You can’t afford McCain, you can’t trust Obama - and let’s not even talk about Hagan

Barack Obama has seized health care as its primary attack for more than a week now, and it certainly helped that the segment of the second debate devoted to that topic was by far his strongest. Obama has a number of ads currently on air devoted to this issue, and its latest spot might very well be the hardest-hitting yet. The campaign has not released it, but Politico discovered that it has been playing in at least two states (Florida and Pennsylvania). “It could all unravel, your health care, under John McCain,” says the ad, going on to warn viewers in direct terms that their coverage could be dropped:

Obama has been denouncing McCain’s plan as a threat to people’s existing coverage and as a tax hike - a remarkable turnaround that seems to be resonating with voters, especially at this time of economic crisis, and undercutting the GOP’s central argument that Obama is looking to increase taxes. And health care is an issue that voters profess to care about, ensuring that the Obama campaign does not have to do more work to justify the relevance of their attacks.

The fact that this spot has not been released also confirms Obama’s tactic of under-the-radar negative ads that has been going on for months, and it is a very different strategy from the GOP’s privileging national attacks that seek to attract attention. Democrats have been hammering McCain for months, and it’s barely broken through to the media’s attention.

It helps, of course, that Obama can now rely on outside groups to help disseminate his economic message. SEIU has a new mailer that is being sent to workers in swing states warning voters that McCain and Bush would leave them “sick and broke.” And UAW has just launched a $3 million campaign in four states (Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio) seeking to channel working-class anxieties against Republican governance:

What is most interesting about the UAW’s ad buy is their decision to invest in Michigan. The McCain campaign and the RNC have now deserted the Wolverine state, but Democratic-leaning groups and the Obama campaign have not. This is not a tactical mistake: Until two weeks ago, Michigan was considered one of the ultimate battlegrounds of this election, and poll numbers don’t show Obama in a stronger position here than in Pennsylvania. Michigan’s 17 electoral votes are worth defending, and a one-sided war boosts Democratic prospects tremendously: Obama would have been favored to win the state even if both camps pulled out, but now one party is mounting a full-blown effort as if the state was highly competitive while the other is nowhere to be found. This will have a major impact on MI-07 and MI-09.

Meanwhile, the McCain campaign continues to attack Obama’s character, starting with this ad we talked about a few days ago that accuses Obama of disrespecting troops and putting them in harm’s way. But the campaign continues to push Bill Ayers half-heartedly in an effort (as I explained last night) to get the media to talk about it without any dramatic move that could associate the campaign too closely with a nasty attack.

Their latest move is to release a web ad highlighting Obama’s association with Ayers. The logic: A web ad gives the media (or at least Fox News, which treated this web ad as major news this morning) an excuse - but it is too long to even be played by news shows, so it won’t necessarily look like McCain is throwing the kitchen sink. As I argued last night, this strategy might have worked in August, but if the campaign thinks that Ayers is the way to go, they are in too dire a position to use such subtle and deceptive tactics.

[Update: More about this later, no doubt, but the McCain campaign might be moving on to a more aggressive approach, as McCain himself talked about Ayers today on the stump: "We need to know the full extent of the relationship." However, he only did so after being prompted by a question from the audience.]

But if Obama is saying that voters can’t afford John McCain and McCain is saying that voters can’t trust Barack Obama, well, Elizabeth Dole doesn’t want to have to choose! We can’t “trust, believe or afford” Kay Hagan, proclaims her latest attack ad in bold letters:

I am not sure the ad’s content (Kay Hagan raised taxes, an accusation that the GOP has been hurling at Hagan for months) justifies that dramatic a closer, as the accumulation of verbs make the ad into for an over-the-top attack, and it is rather surprising to see how much Dole tries to up the stakes in those last few seconds. This isn’t to say that attacking a Democrat on taxes isn’t effective, or that hyping your attempt to disqualify your opponent is always a bad idea - but you should probably reserve the latter for more appropriate occasions, if for no other reason than not looking desperate.


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SEIU, DWAF, Freedom’s Watch, NRA: Outside groups step up

Four years ago, outside groups played a much greater role in running TV advertisements and organizing on the ground. Such independent efforts are surprisingly not a major part of this year’s election, forcing the campaigns to do most of the grunt work themselves.

That said, there are a few noticeable third-party investments going on right now. That is particularly the case with labor groups, always a major part of the Democrats’ organizing efforts. Unions are sending out mailers and handing out fliers hitting McCain on the economy, and their field efforts are a crucial part of Obama’s efforts to reach out to voters who might be reluctant to vote for the Democrat for racial reasons (the Los Angeles Times’s week-end piece on the race factor in Virginia and on Obama’s efforts to counter it is certainly worth a read).

Now, SEIU is up with what they describe as a seven-figure buy featuring two women discussing rising health care costs:

The spot attempts to capture voter anxiety about the economy, and channel it on an issue in which Democrats enjoy a particularly large advantage (health care). Obama himself has made this a focus of his attacks on the Arizona Senator over the past few days. Meanwhile, the AFL-CIO is sending this new flier blasting McCain as an “economic disaster for the middle class” to one million households.

McCain is getting some help as well, as the NRA continues its anti-Obama efforts with a new spot accusing Obama of wanting to ban firearms. The NRA has said its total investment would be in the eight-figure, certainly enough to have an impact in some swing states. Their new ad tries to raise voters’ worries over crime:

In down-the-ballot races, independent expenditures obviously have the potential to have even greater impact, as the candidates and the national committees do not always have that much money to spend. Furthermore, outside groups have to choose which races to concentrate in, and their spending decisions can tell us a lot about which contests are the most competitive.

In CO-04, the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund just spent $650,000 on a new attack ad aimed at Maryln Musgrave. That is a very serious investment, especially as it comes on top of hundreds of thousands of dollars DWAF had already poured in the race, and it ensures that the ad will have a real presence in the district. Interestingly, this new ad is not devoted to environmental issues (despite DWAF’s attack ad against Sarah Palin on the subject of aerial hunting of wolves); rather, it goes after Musgrave’s ties to oil companies and accuses her of corruption - accusations that Democrats have been airing in the past few cycles and that are also the topic of the latest ad by Musgrave’s Democratic opponent.

Meanwhile, Republican group Freedom’s Watch is moving in North Carolina to attack Kay Hagan’s fiscal record in the state legislature. Like the other ads I highlighted in this post, this is a significant buy and it is not just meant for cable TV shows and for earned media. Politico was told by Freedom’s Watch that it cost “well over $750,000:”

Interestingly, the ad does not make any new charges against Hagan and recycles the NRSC’s attack ads, despite the fact that independent groups have an opportunity to air tougher ads since the spots are not directly funded by candidate. That said, this is not necessarily a bad thing, as it always Republicans to hammer one theme from all directions and ensure that the attacks really sink in voters’ mind. Furthermore, North Carolina voters are clearly unhappy with the Democrats of the state government as Beverly Perdue’s weakness in the gubernatorial race demonstrates. Tagging Hagan to local Democratic governance could be an effective strategy for the GOP.

Meanwhile, the NRCC is the only group that is being left out of the action. They bought air time in two districts last week (WA-08 and PA-03), but 29 days from the election they have still been unable to budget any further ad investments. They did send out direct mail in a few districts over the week-end however (NJ-03, OH-15, MI-07, all GOP-held and highly vulnerable seats), and mailers can certainly be expensive (between $10,000 and $30,000 in these three cases).


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All-out war: Obama unveils Keating, GOP invokes terrorist ties

Barack Obama and John McCain are now on the brink of an all-out war that will make the past four months look like child’s play.

On Saturday, Sarah Palin left no doubt as to what strategy the GOP will adopt over the next few weeks. “This is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who targeted their own country,” she said, repeating that line on the stump multiple times on Sunday. And to those who wonder why Palin is using a plural form when the reference is clearly to William Ayers, Marc Ambinder reports that Republican operatives are readying attacks on two other people with whom Obama has some loose connection.

And so much for reports that the McCain campaign would not bring up Wright. Bill Kristol reports that Palin told him that, “I don’t know why that association isn’t discussed more, because those were appalling things that that pastor had said about our great country, and to have sat in the pews for 20 years and listened to that - with, I don’t know, a sense of condoning it, I guess, because he didn’t get up and leave - to me, that does say something about character.” It is stunning to see Palin make this argument considering that she has her own pastor problem, as she “didn’t get up and leave” in mid-August made controversial statements on Jews.

Finally, the McCain campaign unveiled an ad this morning that hits Obama for suggesting that American troops are responsible for killing civilians in Afghanistan, calling it “dishonorable” (this goes back to the GOP’s strategy in late July, when they welcomed Obama back from his international trip with spots accusing him of not having met the troops):

The common thread of all of these attacks on Obama’s character: Does he love America? This is not a man who sees America as you and I do - as the greatest force for good in the world,” said Palin on Saturday, and that is evidently the GOP’s closing argument.

But if Republicans thought they could attack Obama’s character in a vacuum, they were deeply mistaken. The rapidity of Obama’s response is breathtaking. Within hours of the GOP bringing up Ayers and (foolishly) revealing days in advance that they would start airing an ad connecting Obama to Ayers and Rezko after Tuesday’s debate, Obama released a spot hitting McCain for his “dishonorable” ads and blaming him for wanting to turn the page away from the economy.

By the next morning, a coordinated effort had been launched to hit McCain’s for friendships and connections he himself has cultivated over the years. On Meet the Press yesterday morning, Paul Begala detailed one figure from McCain’s past Democrats will evidently be invoking:

“John McCain sat on the board of a very right-wing organization, it was the U.S. Council for World Freedom, it was chaired by a guy named John Singlaub, who wound up involved in the Iran contra scandal. It was an ultra conservative, right-wing group. The Anti-Defamation League, in 1981 when McCain was on the board, said this about this organization. It was affiliated with the World Anti-Communist League – the parent organization – which ADL said ‘has increasingly become a gathering place, a forum, a point of contact for extremists, racists and anti-Semites.’ “

And late last night, the Obama campaign escalated its attack one step further by unveiling a broad offensive on McCain’s involvement in the Keating Five. They launched a website - KeatingEconomics.com - that will feature a 13-minute documentary on that massive financial scandal starting at noon today. For now, all we can see is this 35-second trailer (we will surely see TV ads based on that trailer soon).

The Obama campaign has come to embody quick-response to such a degree that they are now countering McCain’s attacks as soon as they are mentioned in the press and before any attack is actually launched! They must have prepared this website and documentary long in advance, and they must have been waiting for the GOP to invoke Wright or Ayers to activate their battle plan. And there is no doubt that the campaign will now send out dozens of surrogates armed with Keating talking-points, or (as Begala demonstrates) talking-points that highlight other problematic McCain connections.

Guilt-by-association and personal attacks are the name of the game for the next 30 days. Both campaigns have now set themselves up for a climactic battle to define their opponent - and this could very well be McCain’s last chance to destabilize his opponent.

The trouble for McCain is that Obama is showing no sign that he will be caught off-balance, quite the contrary. The aggressiveness of Obama’s moves suggests that the McCain campaign will find it difficult to raise questions about the Illinois Senator without just as many questions popping up in voters’ minds about the Republican nominee. And while Ayers certainly has the potential of being far more damaging to Obama, how much of a distraction Keating becomes for McCain largely depends on how much hype and drama Democrats introduce in that story.

The Obama campaign’s discipline is remarkable: Democrats have barely invoked Keating for months, respecting instructions to save that financial scandal for later in the campaign. And the campaign looks to have prepared its Keating attack much more carefully and deliberately than the GOP’s seemingly hap-hazard moves.

On the other hand, it is incomprehensible that Republicans are doing such a sloppy job at unveiling their Ayers attack. Stories came out on Friday night reporting that the GOP would run ads on the topic five days later; Palin was dispatched to raise the issue four days before the campaign was planning to launch its full-scale offensive.

Why go at it half-heartedly? Why give Democrats such a long time to prepare their counter-strategy? Why give them such an early warning that the Obama campaign has time to launch a website, a documentary and send out its surrogates armed with the names of a number of controversial old friends of McCain’s? Now, Republicans will not benefit from any news cycle exclusively devoted to Ayers, and news story that will be published about the former Weatherman in the days ahead will surely also contain a few paragraphs about Keating, Singlaub or John Hagee.

Considering that Ayers is one of the GOP’s only silver bullets, how well the McCain campaign deploys his artillery in the days ahead and how effectively Obama responds could tell us a lot about the state of the race.


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Spending, attacks and electoral map: Democrats get aggressive

2000 and 2004 led to the perception that Democratic candidates are too timid to do what it takes to win an election. But this year, it is Republicans who have had problem developing an offensive message and it is Democrats who are taking an aggressive stance - and have the financial muscle to get their message heard.

While the McCain campaign largely wasted the month of September in distracting attacks (as I explained this morning) and is now musing when and how it should use Rezko and Ayers, Obama is pushing his advantage on economic issues to paint his adversary as an out-of-touch politician and as a tax-and-spender. That’s right, the Democratic presidential nominee is attacking his Republican opponent for proposing tax hikes and expensive programs with the kicker, “Can we afford John McCain?”

First came a spot called “Spending Spree” that accused McCain of looking to raise the debt. But Democrats have been focusing in particular on health care, an issue that had disappeared from the campaign trail for months but is making a dramatic last-minute appearance in the general election. A new wave of TV advertisement and mailers is now charging that McCain is looking to tax health care benefits “for the first time ever,” in what Obama warns would cost households thousands of dollars. Here’s one version of Obama’s new health care attack, and here is another:

[youtube="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4-EBYIvwP8"]

Joe Biden devoted one of his answers in the vice-presidential debate to McCain’s tax on health care benefits, and Sarah Palin did not respond at all to his allegations. That the Obama campaign is unveiling such a large campaign on this issue and that they had entirely stayed away from discussing health care for months suggests that they were saving this attack for the last weeks of the campaign - and the timing seems very effective indeed.

The financial crisis has made voters jittery about their finances, and health care costs is obviously a big worry for them. McCain has already weakened as more voters started rating the economy as their primary concern, and these ads are a direct appeal to any voter who do so but are still leaning towards McCain. These ads could be particularly effective for older voters who have been a strong constituency for McCain and who Obama wants to bring back to the Democratic camp.

Obama’s ads are a direct response to McCain’s own tax-and-spend attacks. That Obama voted “94 times” to raise taxes was one of Palin’s main talking points on Thursday night, and McCain is airing ads accusing Obama and “congressional liberals” of being big spenders. This is McCain’s main policy-based attack against the Illinois Senator, and Obama is hoping to make himself immune from it by leveling the same charge against his opponent, and do so with no hint of being on the defensive.

And the Obama campaign is applying this strategy of preemption - essentially a defensive move that is a strong enough of an attack that it allows you to regain the offensive - in other areas as well. Politico reports that Democrats already moved on reports that the McCain campaign will start airing ads invoking Ayers and Rezko after Tuesday’s debate to craft an ad of their own that will begin airing Monday. In other words, viewers will see Obama’s response ad before Republicans release any ad of their own!

According to Politico, the ad will accuse McCain of seeking to “turn the page on the economy” by launching “dishonorable, dishonest attacks.” The ad also calls McCain “erratic in a crisis,” as direct an attack on McCain’s temperament as we have seen yet in Democratic advertising. Thus, it is important to remember that Republican efforts to paint Obama as a dangerous, untrustworthy choice will not happen in a vacuum; they will run against an equally determined effort by Democrats to do the same against the Arizona Senator and present him as a risk.

A few months ago, it would certainly have been strange for Democrats to define McCain as a risk, but recent polling indicates that voters came to view McCain’s suspending his campaign as a flippant move that spoke badly of McCain’s steadiness. In other words, the groundwork for Obama’s “erratic” attack has already been laid - which is why it could be very effective in affecting the way voters view McCain - and why the last month of presidential ads could be far more brutal than anything we have seen over the past few months.

And Democrats are better positioned to get their own attacks break through all the ad noise because of Obama’s superior financial position. The Democrat is outspending McCain by some stunning proportions. In the last week of September, the GOP only outspent Obama in Minnesota (the only state, concidentally, that recent polls have suggested might be trending Republican). In Virginia, Indiana and North Carolina, Democrats outspent Republicans 10:1… The disparity was at least 2:1 in a number of other states, including Wisconsin, Colorado, Ohio, New Hampshire, Missouri (3:1).

In fact, Republicans spent more in Iowa (a state in which Obama is leading by double-digits) than in North Carolina and Virginia combined, a truly inexplicable decision.

The most striking numbers come from Florida. It’s not just that Obama is now spending more than $3 million in the state (Republicans did not even spend $1 million in the last week of September), but the New York Times reports that since mid-September a staggering 20% of Obama’s total ad budget has gone to the Sunshine State! For anyone who doubted that Democrats would do a serious push for Florida’s 27 electoral votes, this is as dramatic a response as is possible.

Finally, this Democrats’ posture in which no Republican move is going unanswered is exemplified by the Obama campaign’s decision to be more aggressive in Nebraska’s second district after Republicans signaled their intention of going after ME-02’s electoral votes on Thursday. Both Maine and Nebraska split their electoral votes by district, and both campaigns think they have a chance to steal one vote in enemy territory (I have already outlined the likelihood and consequences of a tie vote in the electoral college, testifying to the importance ME-02 and NE-02 could have).

And here again, score the first point to Democrats, who have forced Republicans on the defensive in Nebraska before exhibiting any sign of worry about Maine. Obama just opened a staff office in Omaha (where NE-02 is located) and it was just announced that Sarah Palin will be traveling to that city to hold a rally. A campaign does not dispatch its vice-presidential candidate anywhere in October unless there is a very good reason. Time is precious, and Palin’s trip betrays GOP anxiety about losing Omaha. The only poll we have of this district for now showed McCain leading by 4% in August.


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McCain’s problem is offense

Something has happened to the McCain campaign. Just a few weeks ago, it was brilliantly succeeding in transforming this election into a referendum about Barack Obama: his readiness, his naivety, his commitment to the troops, even his shady connections. Republicans understood that the only way they could win this election was to convince the majority of voters who are looking to vote for a Democrat, any Democrat, that they shouldn’t vote for this Democrat - and they applied this strategy effectively. The celebrity ads were mocked, but they instilled doubt about Obama.

In the past month, however, Republicans lost track of the fact that their primary objective was to disqualify Obama, and they let the spotlight shift to McCain. Today, undecided voters are asking themselves as many questions about the Arizona Senator - does he have the temperament to be president? how different is he from President Bush? would we trust his vice-president to take over? - than they are about his opponent.

That is a recipe for disaster.

Some of McCain’s slippage is due to the financial crisis, which led the year’s pro-Democratic environment to reassert itself. But that environment had never disappeared to start with. It had been temporarily muted by the GOP convention but the McCain campaign had taken only a few steps to ensure it was silenced permanently.

What is at fault is the lack of a coherent offensive message. In August, McCain’s core attack against Obama was clear, and it could be encapsulated in one sentence: he is not “ready to lead” because he is all talk, no substance. Repeated endlessly on cable news and in television ads, that core attack was starting to stick.

Two months later, what is McCain’s core attack?

His September attacks ads were a mix of attacks on his liberalism, his ties to corrupt business executives, and only sometimes did McCain bring up Obama’s lack of experience. No coherent picture of Obama emerges out of all of this. Republicans seemingly renounced the urgent task of painting a portrait of a vividly risky Obama they wanted voters to see.

Nowhere was this more obvious than at the GOP convention: Palin’s selection forced organizers to change the speeches to downplay brutal attacks on Obama’s experience. Instead, some speakers emphasized that the Democrat is not ready, others questioned Obama’s commitment to the troops. And the dominant mode of attack was sarcasm - make fun of his years as a community organizer, for instance. But that is not a strategy that is effective in a long-term against a candidate who is not already an object of ridicule: It might have worked against Kerry, whom the GOP managed to quickly turn into a caricature, but they have certainly not been able to do the same to Obama, whose favorability rating have remained consistently strong.

Four factors in particular explain McCain’s failure at developing a coherent attack. First, the McCain campaign did not go back to the experience argument even after the convention; instead, it chose to emphasize change and reform, ground Obama is most comfortable on. That did not work, and all polls show Obama remains the candidate of change. In other words, McCain abruptly gave up all the groundwork the celebrity ads had laid throughout late July and August to try and went in the wilderness.

Second, the strategy Republicans are privileging right now is to attack Obama as a traditional tax-and-spend liberal. A new ad hits the Illinois Senator for having supported tax hikes, for instance. But that strategy is not adapted to the current environment. In 2008, voters are willing to vote for a liberal candidate - in fact, they are wiling to vote for anyone but a Republican. That is what happened in 2006, when Democratic candidates seemed immune to the GOP’s traditional anti-liberal arguments.

McCain has somewhat managed to convince voters that he is different enough from your typical Republican to warrant consideration, but he has made no progress in his argument that there is something particular to Obama (not to Democrats in general) that makes him so threatening. Quite the contrary, in fact: McCain now seems determined to show that there is nothing that distinguishes Obama from his fellow Democrats, and that is a big strategic mistake. This year, voters want a Republican to not be a Republican, but there is no sign that they want a Democrat to not be a Democrat.

Third, one can question the wisdom of putting so much emphasis on little incidents like “lipstick on a pig.” If Obama had been the underdog, that might have prevented him from finding his footing. But all the fundamentals still favored the Democrat and the burden was still on Republicans to disqualify him - and do so fundamentally to get voters who want to vote for him away from the Illinois Senator. Was “lipstick on a pig” going to do the trick? Were ads (or rather video press releases) portraying Democrats as a pack of sexist wolves?

Finally, I have repeatedly praised McCain’s determination to take gambles, and I have explained that such unexpected maneuvers are necessary for McCain to halt Obama’s momentum and keep McCain alive. But McCain’s latest gambles have been the wrong kind. In particular, the suspension of his campaign shook up the race, but it did so in a way that left McCain alone under the spotlight - and then backfired, as voters appear to have taken that as a sign of erratic behavior rather than steady leadership. But even in the best case scenario, McCain might have improved his own favorability, which is no longer the key to his victory: whatever voters think of him, he will not win in such a Democratic year without impacting Obama’s image.

As a result, we now find ourselves a month from Election Day, and Obama has barely been impacted by Republican attacks. His favorability remains high, he undoubtedly passed a qualification threshold in the first presidential debate, and he has adopted a very efficiently offensive tactic of his own against McCain.

So what is the GOP to do? They need to develop a more coherent attack scheme - and they appear to be going back to where they started, going after Obama’s character, something they pursued more consistently in the spring and summer. A Washington Post article published this morning found that Republicans are “readying a newly aggressive assault on Sen. Barack Obama’s character,” and it didn’t take long for us to get confirmation in Sarah Palin’s new stump speech.

“Well, I was reading my copy of today’s New York Times and I was really interested to read about Barack’s friends from Chicago. Turns out, one of his earliest supporters is a man who, according to The New York Times was a domestic terrorist… [Obama] is not a man who sees America as you and I do - as the greatest force for good in the world. This is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who targeted their own country.

We will be hearing a lot about Obama’s worldview, his Americanness and his patriotism in the coming weeks. And Palin’s direct references to Bill Ayers suggest that he will be at the center of Republican attacks. This could be an effective strategy, since polls have long suggested voters have doubts about Obama. But is it not too late?

Let’s say it again: We are a month from Election Day, many voters have already cast their ballot, others are making up their mind as we speak and have already developed a firm impression of both candidates. Can Republicans suddenly reinvent an attack strategy and get it through to voters, even as the Obama campaign has millions it can spend in quick response ads? Is it not too risky to dramatically dial up the volume of attacks so close to the election, especially when the country is focused on the economy? After all, a narrative has congealed around McCain’s meanness and tendency to stretch the truth, and the GOP has to be very careful to not feed those impressions further.

To make matters worse, McCain has a money problem. He is limited by the public financing system, and he has to rely on the RNC’s war chest to stay afloat. Any heavy attack on the Illinois Senator would have to be made in conjunction with the RNC, and that committee certainly has a lot of money. It raised a very impressive $66 million in September alone. But as I have said many times, you cannot simply add up McCain’s cash on hand to the RNC’s.

There are two ways in which the RNC can help McCain. First, it can produce and run an ad through its independent expenditure division, but that prevents any coordination between the ad’s makers and the McCain campaign, which thus has no control over messaging. Considering that the lack of a coherent message is the main problem McCain is facing right now, this only exacerbates the problem. Second, an ad can be a common expenditure which both the RNC and the campaign pay for; but in that case the spot cannot just be aimed at one candidate. This is why a number of McCain’s recent negative ads have attacked “Obama and his liberal congressional allies.”

Those broad attacks mean that a portion of the ads is wasted with meaningless - and sometimes counterproductive - segments. In some of these spots, Obama’s image is juxtaposed to that of Senators no swing voter will recognize - Byron Dorgan, Chuck Schumer. And only the first half of the latest GOP spot is devoted to Obama’s tax cutting habits. The rest is wasted on attacking unnamed congressional liberals:

The requirement to attack multiple Democrats is particularly damaging to Republicans in this environment. Voters want to vote Democratic, and the McCain campaign needs to convince them that there is something wrong with this particular Democrat. Associating him to “liberal” congressional leaders might have hurt in another political environment, but it also makes Obama a more familiar figure.

In 2008, that’s all a Democrat needs to be.


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Ad wars: GOP on defensive, McCain invokes Clinton, Obama hits gov-run health care, Illinois Dem remakes Daisy

It had been announced last week, it was released today. The RNC’s latest spot (which will be the first GOP ads Indiana voters will see), hits Obama on his spending plans. While that is certainly unexpected, it does so by suggesting that the Illinois Senator is tied to the bailout plan, a somewhat surprising move considering that John McCain has associated himself more tightly with the now-rejected deal.

This ad should worry McCain supporters. Their candidate is now trailing by high single-digits, and this is all the GOP has to offer? This is not to say that attacking Democrats for their spending habits is not an effective strategy, and it could very well hurt Obama this year - but the spot lacks the magnitude an attack ad would need to move the fundamentals of the race. And it contradicts voters’ perception that it is Republicans who are to blame for the financial crisis, and it is a Republican Administration that has proposed the $700 billion plan.

This is not to say that the ad might not be necessary: McCain is being undercut by the fact that he is now associated with a unpopular deal he associated himself and then failed to push through, and the GOP now has to push back against any harm that ensues from that. But that points to the problem with this ad: It is essentially a defensive spot that attempts to change the conversation and might at best neutralize Obama’s advantage on the topic rather than reverse momentum. Republicans were surely hoping to be airing foreign policy ads by now, but instead the RNC’s independent expenditure arm is stuck producing unimaginative spots on the economy.

John McCain also released an ad this morning. The spot is devoted to the financial crisis, has more news value than the RNC ad (it uses recent statements by Bill Clinton’s words that appear to blame Democrats) and spends more time casting McCain as a reformer who had warned about the risks to the mortgage industry. But the ad’s end goal is the same: cast the blame on Democrats where voters are now blaming Republican. In that, the spot is also a defensive ad: Breaking news are forcing McCain to address issues that fundamentally help his opponent:

Meanwhile, we get two new Obama ads this morning - one was released by his campaign, the other was not released but was captured by a viewer and posted on Politico. That latter spot denounces government-run health care, leaving little doubt that Obama is determined to win at the center even in the midst of this crisis and that his campaign doesn’t subscribe to the idea that it could capture the imagination of Democrats who aren’t voting for him with a more populist and progressive economic agenda. It is also surprising that Obama chose to run a somewhat defensive-sounding health care spot with little to no prompting from the GOP, as there has been relatively little discussion of health care in the general election:

Obama’s other ad is a 2-minute spot (!) in which he talks directly to the camera, in what is a detailed explanation of his economic proposals and of his tax policies. Obama has aired ads like this one before, but I do not believe he has included a 2-minute spot in his regular rotation until now. The format allows him to get into the specifics of his proposals, and that is a very effective strategy for him. A complaint undecided voters often voice about Obama is that he does not provide enough substance, and having Obama walk viewers through a few of his policies could certainly address that vulnerability:

But all of these presidential spots are amateurish play compared to the ad unleashed by Illinois Democrat Colleen Callahan, who is running in the conservative-leaning open seat of IL-18. Her opponent, 29-year old state Senator Aaron Schock, recently voiced the idea that the United States sell nuclear weapons to Taiwan and the Callahan campaign chose to go all-out in a remake of Lyndon Johnson’s infamous Daisy ad:

The ad accuses Schock of being “too extreme,” the best charge Democrats have to use in a district whose retiring representative is known as a moderate in the Republican caucus. But portraying a nuclear explosion might not be the most subtle way to make the point, and is most likely an attempt by Callahan to get some attention in one of the rare open seats Democrats have not been successful at making competitive.



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  • All good things must come to an end

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  • What remains on the table

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  • Confusion in Connecticut (Updated)

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    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Results thread, part 2: Dems suffer staggering losses in House and legislatives races, limit damage in statewide races

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Election Night results thread: Rep. Boucher’s fall first surprise of the night

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Election night cheat sheet

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Final ratings: Democrats brace for historic losses

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • What to watch for down-ballot

Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

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