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Strict Standards: Non-static method K2Header::get_header_width() should not be called statically in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-content/themes/k2/app/classes/header.php on line 8

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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' CategoryPage 2 of 4


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 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

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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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

Obama seeks to capitalize on new campaign narrative

Obama unveiled a new strategy today, one that his campaign had generally not pursued until this past week. But a new campaign narrative is solidifying around McCain, and that has given Democrats an opening. To their usual portrayal of McCain as “more of the same,” they are now adding a twist: the charge that McCain has transformed himself from a maverick into a typical, cynical political in order to gain power.

John Kerry used this line of attack in his speech at the Democratic convention, ridiculing the internal debate between “Senator McCain and candidate McCain.” But most other convention speakers stayed away from the charge that McCain reshaped himself for the sake of his ambition. And for good reason: the strategy comes with obvious risks, as it requires telling voters that McCain used to be a maverick and speaking well of his past positioning.

But the events of the past week have given Obama an opening. The media is generally very timid in pointing out that claims are false and tends to give a campaign the benefit of the doubt. But as articles from the mainstream press have used increasingly tough words to characterize McCain’s attacks, it became evident that something had changed. Perhaps it was the GOP’s plain refusal to edit itself after its claim had been thoroughly debunked (Sarah Palin repeated that she had been opposed to the bridge to nowhere in events this week-end), or perhaps the sex-ed for kindergartners charge crossed the line, but the end result is that the press have exhibited a willingness to point out holes in McCain’s claims to an extent that has rarely been seen in recent years.

In other words, a narrative is being developed as we speak, one that is being amplified by late night comics, cartoonists and columnists across the country: Just as Gore was stiff in 2000 and Kerry was a flip-flopper in 2004, McCain risks being defined as a truth-twister.

The McCain campaign did not expect the rough treatment it got on The View last week, where the co-hosts were tougher on the Arizona Senator than most journalists have been. And this video of a Fox News anchor repeatedly calling out a McCain spokesperson for lying about Obama’s policy on taxes is truly a sight to behold. If even Fox News has picked up on this new narrative of a truth-stretching GOP, what will local evening news be reporting in the weeks ahead? And if the press now believes that the McCain campaign is not being truthful, it will double-check a lot of the Republican’s claims and be tougher on the GOP’s attacks.

The Obama campaign is now looking to capitalize on the press’s willingness to call out McCain by making the Republicans’ dirty tactics into a campaign issue. The campaign’s latest ad hits McCain for his “deception,” quoting a variety of press outlets (and mostly op-ed writers) that characterize McCain’s tactics as “vile” and “sleazy:”

Campaigns that complain about tone rarely win. Voters complain about negative ads but they end up relying on them. Just yesterday (before Obama’s ad came out), Jonathan Martin linked to an ad aired by Dukakis in 1988 that blamed Bush I for taking the campaign down the gutter. Ultimately process does not weigh that heavily on voters’ minds, which is why Obama has never been worried that his decision to opt out of public financing will come to hurt him.

But Democrats are hoping that 2008 will be different, and it might very well be. As I already said, a narrative is developing around McCain, and an attack is most effective when it relies on pre-existing conceptions about someone. The noise around McCain’s tactics will amplify Obama’s attacks and make it tougher for the Republican to go after Obama in the weeks ahead.

Second, truthfulness and straight-talk have been at the center of McCain’s appeal, more profoundly so than for most politicians. McCain’s maverick reputation, his willingness to take on George W. Bush in 2000 and in the years ahead is what made him an appealing politician in the eyes of independent voters, and a lot of those warm feelings have transferred over to this election. McCain is leading among independent voters because he successfully made the election about character.

That McCain has this reputation also speaks to the limitations of Obama’s “more of the same” strategy. Voters might dislike Bush and they might fear that McCain will prolong his policies, but they still have the image of McCain as the anti-Bush Republican; that is, after all, how McCain almost became the GOP’s presidential nominee eight years ago. Can Obama get voters to blame McCain for Bush without at least acknowledging that many independent have a fond image of McCain the straight-talker?

These questions have been in the air for many weeks now, as some analysts had been urging Obama to take on Kerry’s attacks and go after McCain’s ambition, point out that the Arizona Senator made up with the very groups he so dramatically denounced eight years ago - the GOP establishment, the Religious Right. But only a few days ago ago did the Obama campaign embrace that argument, saying that McCain “would rather lose his integrity than lose an election.”

Now, Joe Biden has been charged with echoing that line of attack in a new and much tougher stump speech he unveiled this morning in Michigan:

Whatever happened to the guy who once denounced tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans in a time of war as “immoral”? Whatever happened to the guy who wanted to do something about climate change?

Not anymore. Senator McCain says he’d vote against a bill he helped to write. When someone running for election changes his views to satisfy the base of the party, that’s not change, that’s just more of the same Washington game…

When Senator McCain was subjected to unconscionable, scurrilous attacks in his 2000 campaign, I called him on the phone to ask what I could do. And now, some of the very same people and the tactics he once deplored, his campaign now employs.

The same campaign that once called for a town hall a week is now launching a low blow a day.

Just as Kerry’s convention speech, Biden’s stump speech could also remind some voters of reasons for which they liked McCain. How big of a risk is this? And will the new campaign narrative that is solidifying around McCain undermine his character appeal?


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Norm Coleman and Gordon Smith unveil their hardest hitting ads yet

The Minnesota Senate is living up to expectations, and Norm Coleman’s latest ad ups the stakes a little more in what has become one of the most negative races of the cycle:

A central part of Coleman’s strategy has long been to disqualify Franken as an option even for voters who are looking to vote Democratic this year. Over the summer, Al Franken had done a relatively decent job at putting the springtime scandals behind him and had unveiled his own series of tough ads hitting Coleman’s ethics; over the past few weeks, the DSCC had joined in the fun by airing a series of ads attacking the incumbent, two of which I highlighted a few days ago. But Coleman is now looking to make sure that the spotlight remains on his opponent so that the race becomes (or remains) a referendum on Franken rather than a choice between two parties.

“I approve of this message (pause) because I thought it was important for you to see it,” says Coleman at the beginning, before the ad encourages the viewer to ask himself whether Franken has the temperament to be Senator. Coleman makes sure to add very little editorializing, letting footage of Franken himself do all the work. This is very often the most damaging type of ad, as it is difficult for Democrats to accuse Coleman of going negative when the ad contains no attack but a compilation of clips of Franken.

The main danger for Coleman would be if viewers think he is trying to distract them from real issues, and that is exactly the argument the DSCC has been making for Coleman in one of its recent ads. In a second ad Coleman released today, he talks directly to the camera, telling viewers that they should expect to see a lot of ads with “scary music” accusing him of having ties to Big Oil and being connected with President Bush. In other words, Coleman is saying that it is the Democrat who are trying to distract you from the truth in an interesting (albeit not novel, nor previously successful) strategy to inoculate himself from attacks.

But the fireworks of the Minnesota Senate race might soon be viewed as amateurish games compared to the latest bomb dropped by Oregon’s Gordon Smith, who is now resorting to one of the oldest tricks in the GOP’s attack book and has launched two ads that could be remembered as one of the low points of the 2008 cycle.

His first ad features Tiffany Edens, a woman who was raped two decades ago at age 13 by a man named Richard Gilmore who confessed to eight other rapes but was not convicted of them because the statutes of limitation had expired. Speaking directly to the camera, Edens faults Smith for having voted against a bill that would have changed the law (Jeff Mapes has more details about the background story, as well as the Merkley campaign’s defense):

Smith’s second ad - once again devoted to Richard Gilmore - also attacks him for opposing mandatory life sentences for serial rapists. The suggestion is clearly that men like Gilmore might get out of jail while still being a danger to society and that Merkley would be responsible for whatever harm might occur:

This is a familiar tactic for the GOP to use against Democratic candidates who have a somewhat liberal record on crime, and the echoes to the Willie Horton ad are evident. For decades now, ads like this have awaited elected officials who have chosen not to support yet another repressive bill sponsored by some politician looking to score political points. These spots are designed to appeal to the viewer’s instinctive emotions, triggering a gut reaction of disgust that Gordon Smith hopes voters will transfer from Gilmore to Merkley.

As long as there is no obvious fact-checking mistake in the ad, this ad is not likely to backfire. After all, this type of spot is certainly not a shot in the dark but has been tested in many elections before (though do note that GOP candidate Kerry Healey’s attempt at such fear-mongering in the Massachusetts gubernatorial race was widely criticized in 2006). But Smith has to be aware that ads that are playing with raw emotions and issues like rape can very easily cross a line and provoke unexpected reactions.

Merkley will now probably need the DSCC to come to its rescue and offer a strong response that hits back against Smith. Depending on Smith’s credibility with voters and depending on whether voters view these attacks as contradicting the incumbent’s touting his moderate credentials, Democrats could even use his aggressive tone against him. At the very least, Jeff Merkley can take comfort in the fact that Smith must be view him as a real danger - a candidate only unleashes such ads if he feels truly threatened.

In other Senate advertising news, an independent group called Campaign Money Watch has taken a $150,000 buy in Alaska - that’s serious money in that state, and at the very least it ensures that this ad isn’t just a press release in video format and that it will actually be viewed by Alaska residents - attacking Ted Stevens’s ethics. That’s obviously not very hard to do, but the spot does not contain any word of Stevens’ indictement. Rather, it accuses Stevens of working for whoever gives him money. The group’s thinking seems to be (1) that Alaska voters will know about the indictement and (2) that Stevens’ main argument is that whatever he might have done he works on behalf of the state and can exercise his seniority to help his state, making it urgent for his opponents to point out that a corrupt politician votes against his voters’ interests rather than for them.


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Ad wars: Obama dials up volume, independent groups step in

McCain’s challenge: keep the Obama campaign on the defensive, focus the conversation on Palin and animal-related controversies.

Obama’s challenge: leave no attack unanswered without letting yourself be distracted and without looking to be on the defensive; find a way to attack McCain for being “more of the same” that is novel and offensive enough to generate news and put McCain on the defensive.

Act I: McCain wasted no time to fulfill his end of the bargain, as his campaign is now airing an ad attacking Obama for his “disrespectful” smears against Sarah Palin. The show continues:

This ad looks like one of the McCain campaign’s frequent “video releases” (the ones that don’t actually air and are meant to earn free media), but it has been spotted on Colorado TV. The ad appears to have run already on Wednesday (but apparently not on September 11th, contrary to prior reports), but was only leaked to reporters last night. The first two quotes are grossly taken out of context, in what is an obvious attempt to stroke the gender wars and generate a backlash against Obama among female viewers.

The GOP has two other ads that hit more usual notes: The RNC is broadcasting a radio ad in New Hampshire attacking Obama on earmarks. A McCain ad in Spanish aimed at Hispanic voters attacks Obama and Biden for having sabotaged comprehensive immigration reform.

Act II: Early in the summer, the Obama campaign insisted that most 527s shut down their operations, which is an effective way to coordinate and centralize message and funds. But it also leaves a campaign alone facing the opposition. The problem with that is that it then becomes up to the campaign to mount answer every single charge, perpetually putting it on the defensive. This is what has happened for most of the past 6 weeks, and more specifically since the Democratic convention ended.

Early this week, however, Marc Ambinder reported that the Obama campaign was now privately signaling that it would welcome 527s and all outside groups getting involved in the race. And that is exactly what is starting to happen now, as the Democrats’ response to the McCain’s campaign misleading attack that Obama favors sex-ed for kindergartners has come in the form of a Planned Parenthood spot:

The ad is particularly tough on the Arizona Senator - “Doesn’t McCain want our children to protect ourselves from sex offenders? Or after 26 years in Washington, is he just another politician who will say anything to get elected?” - and it is reportedly airing in Denver and Pittsburgh, the only two markets in which the sex-ed ad aired (in more evidence that the McCain campaign is just looking to generate media coverage and put Obama on the defensive).

Another independent group is now airing an ad, and this is surely one of the most bizarre and unexpected spots we have seen this year. Defense of Wildlife is up with a one-minute spot (you can view it here) attacking Sarah Palin for supporting aerial huting of wolves. The spot goes in great detail about the tactics that are used and ends by asking, “Do we really want a vice president who champions such savagery?

Of course, it is rather late for the Obama campaign to convert itself to the virtues of independent expenditures. MoveOn.org disintegrated its 527, and Progressive Media USA - a group that was designed to help the Democratic nominee - had to shut down for lack of funding. And the GOP’s success in bringing William Ayers back in the political discussion thanks to an independent expenditure by a group called the American Issues Project confirms that attacks coming from 527s can be very effective in driving the conversation. 

Act III: After a one-day break on September 11th, the Obama campaign is looking to avoid being caught on the defensive again, and they are now looking to go on the offensive. As I said, Democrats need to find a way to challenge the independent change mantra McCain has been asserting since his acceptance speech. But they need to do so in a way that is novel enough for the media to pick up on and for the McCain campaign to be forced to respond. After all, any day which is spend arguing about whether McCain is like Bush is a wasted day for Republicans.

This morning, the Obama campaign released three ads - one features Obama speaking directly to the camera detailing some concrete proposals that would “change” Washington, and two are harsh attacks ads. The first attack ad (you can view it here) is a brutal spot that attacks McCain’s advisers for their lobbying activities. “If seven of McCain’s top advisers are lobbyists, who do you think will run his White House?” asks the announcer?

The second negative spot attacks McCain for being “out of touch,” using an argument I didn’t think would ever make it in a TV spot - that McCain does not use the Internet:

The ad is an obvious attack at McCain’s age - probably the most explicit one to date. It is unclear to me how much potential the Internet attack has the potential of capturing voters’ imagination. The Obama campaign has signaled that they are looking to develop a past v. future narrative in the last few weeks of the campaign, and this could be a first step towards building that theme.

Over the past two weeks, the McCain campaign has attempted to seize the change mantle, and McCain has portrayed himself as a reformer committed to changing the ways of Washington. Both of these ads are a direct challenge to McCain’s argument, as they portray him as an insider that is wholly out of touch with the average American voter and that has been corrupted by the ways of Washington - just like other politicians voters are eager to reject this year (by McCain’s own admission). And the Obama camp now has new material to use from McCain’s appearance at the national service forum last night; while using this quote would be taking it out of context, it’s doubtful Democrats will resist blasting him for saying, “It’s easy for me to go to Washington and frankly, be somewhat divorced from the day-to-day challenges people have.”

But I think Obama’s positive ad is perhaps the most effective of the morning’s three releases, as Obama addresses a concern swing voters have about his “change” slogan and puts substance behind that word by proposing an issue-based definition that seeks to turn the page of Republican-rule:

Now that McCain is also presenting himself as the change agent, it is essential for Obama to show that he has concrete proposals and recapture the tone of his acceptance speech. The McCain campaign has been eager to blast Obama’s definition of change as illusory and apply it to character-based reformist credentials; but if the Obama camp puts significant amount of money behind this ad, it could very well influence what people think about when they hear the word “change.”


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With the race in flux, presidential campaign gets nasty

A few weeks ago, Rick Davis said that the election would not be decided on issues but on character, and the McCain campaign is staying true to its word. Within hours of Obama’s ad attacking McCain’s position on education issues, the GOP was out with an ad accusing the Illinois Senator of wanting children to “[learn] about sex before learning to read.”

So McCain’s latest ad blasts Obama for wanting to teach children about sex in Kindergarten. The Obama campaign has called McCain’s “perverse” and questioned McCain’s honor; “last week, John McCain told Time magazine he couldn’t define what honor was. Now we know why,” said the campaign. And for the past few hours, Drudge has been headlining Obama’s “you can put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig” and accompanying that quote with a picture of Sarah Palin.

It does feel like the campaign took a turn over the past 12 hours and descended into the gutter. But it’s still September 10th, and the race has plenty of time to sink further.

Before going any further, a minimal amount of fact checking seems necessary. First of all, let’s look at Obama’s lipstick comment, which led McCain campaign’s to accuse him of sexism. Former Gov. Swift said, ” “Calling a very prominent female governor a pig is not what we want.” Hoping to make this go viral, the McCain campaign has produced a web ad that prefaces Obama’s quote with “Obama on Palin.” But it is entirely disingenuous to put a picture of Palin next to Obama’s comments, as if Obama was calling the Alaska Governor a pig. Whatever one says about Obama’s insensitivity, he was not talking about Palin but about McCain. The expression was meant to refer to McCain’s argument that he is no Bush Republican. Said Obama:

John McCain says he is change to… That’s not change, that’s just calling something the same thing something different. You can put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig. You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change. It’s still gonna stink.

Could Obama have chosen his words better? Sure. Palin did appropriate the “pitbull with lipstick” expression in her acceptance speech, and Obama’s comments echo back to that. [Update, since a commenter takes this sentence as my contradicting myself: All I mean by echo is that Obama's words remind us of what Palin said and that Obama should have foreseen that Drudge would run with it if he did not strike an expression he is known to use from his vocabulary. The word "echo" in no way implies that Obama was referring to Palin. If this isn't clear, we might as well say that Palin was copying Obama by using the word lipstick in her speech months he did.]

But for Drudge, Swift and McCain to say that Obama referred to Palin as a “pig” is a fabrication. It makes no sense given the context, little sense considering the fact that Obama has used that expression before, and risky sense considering McCain used the same exact expression to describe Hillary Clinton’s health care proposal (”I think they put some lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig”) and on at least two other occasions. The Obama campaign was quick to point out this hypocrisy: “This phony lecture on gender sensitivity is the height of cynicism and lays bare the increasingly dishonorable campaign John McCain has chosen to run.”

Similarly, McCain’s ad on Kindergarten sex-ed is a series of stunningly transparent distortions. Obama’s one accomplishment was “legislation to teach comprehensive sex education to kindergartners,” says the ad. (1) It is ridiculous to claim that this was one of Obama’s “accomplishments” when the bill did not pass and Obama wasn’t even one of the sponsors. (2) the bill in question was only meant to be applied to existing sex-ed programs, did not add any new program and certainly did not mandate any kindergarten class from offering any kind of sex-ed. (3) The ad makes Kindergarten sex-ed seem like an insane concept bordering on pedophilia when it can consist of simple things like telling children to not trust strangers.

We still have to see whether the McCain campaign goes ahead and airs the ad (Update: They will, in 7 Midwestern states!), but this is the type of provocative attack that is sure to generate attention and put an opponent on the defensive, drowning whatever policy message they had for the day. And how can one respond to ads like this one? How can one issue a response when the topic at hand is children and sex?

The more Obama spends time defending himself, the less time he has attacking McCain’s ties with Bush and the more the election becomes a referendum on his alleged radicalism, leftism and now apparently loose morals. The more Obama defends himself, the more he fulfills Davis’s prophecy that this election will be decided by questions of character.

Furthermore, how do you respond to an ad when its main charge is so obviously not supported by facts? This goes back to the Bridge to Nowhere discussion. When even the AP and the Wall Street Journal have issued articles denouncing McCain and Palin’s statements on the topic as false and when McCain and Palin seem to not care at all and keep repeating the same assertions, what is the next step? An incredulous Post article describes this strategy of “staying on message even when that message has been publicly discredited” and points out that this commitment to transparent distortions is proving very effective in at least one area - taxes. The press can remind readers that claims are lies, the Obama campaign can continue to blast the GOP ticket, but will it matter? At would point would voters notice?

This sequence is also a reminder that the election ultimately remains about Barack Obama and John McCain. However much the conversation over the past two weeks has shifted to Palin and however much the GOP is banking its change strategy on the Alaska Governor, there is only so much attention Palin will be able to occupy in the next two months. Obama and McCain are mainly attacking each other, and ads like this will contribute to re-focusing the debate on the presidential nominees. And there are three presidential debates that will be watched by tens of millions of viewers - two of which will take place long after Biden and Palin are done with their sole encounter.

Palin has already changed some of the election’s fundamentals. She has lifted the spirits of Republican activists, she has given new life to the McCain campaign and she is drawing huge crowds the McCain campaign is not used to. She could very well prove to be a more consequential pick than we are used to, and accusations of sexism could still fuel a female backlash against Obama. But as the general election’s rhetoric amplifies, it is important to remember that those who are still undecided are more likely to be moved by the names at the top of the ticket.

Update: Obama offers an unapologetic response, attacks the media and McCain for being unwilling to discuss serious issues.


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As battle over change mantle continues, Obama’s response ad takes on Palin

Following McCain’s “original maverick” ad released this morning, the Obama campaign quickly fired back with an ad of its own, using McCain’s ties with President Bush, the lobbyists working on his campaign and Palin’s distortions on the bridge to nowhere to accuse the GOP ticket of being “no mavericks” and “more of the same:”

Overall, I am not sold on the ad’s visuals, as it seems more obvious than usual to me that the ad was produced in a few hours. And I am not sure how much a voter who does not follow every news of the campaign trail will get of that image of Palin and the “Nowhere Alaska” tee-shirt at first viewing, nor why the Obama campaign chose to attack her for flip-flopping rather than lying (after all, it is disputable that Palin can be said to have ever opposed the bridge, since she did so when it did not matter anymore, so why are Democrats granting that she “opposed” it at some point?).

However, the ad’s particular points and its overall strategy are strong, and exactly what Obama should now hit the GOP ticket on. August was mostly about Obama, the fall looks like it will mostly be about McCain and Palin. Obama welcomes that given the risks of letting his persona define voters’ choice and is moving to define McCain and Palin before they get a chance to redefine themselves. For instance, this is to my knowledge the first time the Obama campaign is using the lobbying ties of McCain aides in an ad,  a useful angle of attack that paints McCain as a creature of the establishment - the very thing he is trying to avoid.

Here, we go back to our discussion of risks of McCain’s abandoning the experience argument to argue that he represents more “change.” I discussed this in detail on Saturday, pointing out the obvious: the electorate associates that word with Obama, not with McCain, and McCain might eventually regret making the election entirely about that word when there is still little evidence that the electorate feels better about McCain’s party label or ties with Bush. Today’s CBS poll shows that 65% of respondents associate the word change with Obama, versus 47% that associate it with McCain.

Today’s ad exchange highlights why McCain might be in a danger zone here. Throughout the summer, he attacked Obama and forced the Democrat on the defensive, forcing him to argue on terrain on which McCain was stronger (readiness, experience). Now, McCain’s ad forced Obama to air a response ad… on the topic on which Democrats loves airing ads in the first place!

In other words, Obama’s defensive ad is exactly what Obama’s offensive ad would look like.

Another important consideration in this ad is the Obama campaign’s choice to take on Palin and the bridge to nowhere. In a sense, this was not a surprise. In fact, it was stunning to see the GOP use that argument to tout Palin’s reformist credentials given how much the press discredited Palin’s “thanks but no thanks” claim when she made it in her introductory address and then in her acceptance speech. The Obama campaign immediately fired a statement calling the ad a “lie” and Obama accused his opponents of “stretching the bounds of spin.” Even the AP came out with a fact-checking article.

McCain weighed in to explain Palin’s change of heart was based on a sudden understanding of the problem with earmarks: “The fact is that Gov. Palin learned that earmarks are bad and she did say, we don’t need our bridge to nowhere.” Not only does this resemble a Romney-like explanation (an incoherent link between a supposed revelation on one issue and a change of heart on another), but Marc Ambinder links to a video of Palin this past July in which she says she only opposed the bridge when she saw “the writing on the wall.”

Yet, the Democrats’ choice to take on Palin is a change of strategy, as the Obama campaign was reported to be planning to keep its focus on McCain and leave Palin alone. Under most circumstances, it would seem foolish for a campaign to waste time attacking the opposition’s vice-presidential nominee. But this is not a normal situation. And the McCain campaign itself was baiting Obama to go on the attack against its running-mate by repeating a thoroughly debunked claim this morning.

Palin is proving to be such a sensation and she is attracting so much attention that the McCain campaign is betting its entire campaign strategy on her right now. As I explained this morning, McCain’s attempt at wrestling the change mantle away from Obama only has a chance at succeeding because he has Palin by his side, and McCain is trying to bask in the glory of her reformist credentials. It might be a huge risk for Obama to bring Palin up in an ad and draw more attention to her, but he might have little choice at this point, especially when the McCain campaign is using claims like her opposition to the bridge to nowhere. (The Obama campaign can also move to exploit Palin’s first gaffe today as she complained Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae had cost way too much to taxpayers.)

That Obama has little choice but to respond to Palin certainly does not mean that such attacks don’t come with significant risks. By her taking, Democrats give McCain’s Palin strategy a fighting chance by making the Alaska Governor a burning issue on the campaign, pitting her directly against Obama, and leading voters to consider her as a potential agent of change. If McCain wants to win on a change ticket, he needs Palin to remain an issue over the next few weeks. He needs voters to ask themselves “Do McCain-Palin represent change?” rather than simply whether McCain does.


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GOP continues to embrace change argument, bets on Palin

Two days ago, I marveled at the McCain campaign’s sudden and dramatic embrace of a new strategy: No more experience argument or attack on Obama’s readiness to lead and an all-out assault on his slogan of change. If until last week the GOP was saying that it should not be blamed for the failures of the Bush Administration, its new argument is much more radical - that it is more apt at taking the country in a new direction.

There are two parts of this strategy: argue that “liberal” Democrats are part of the problem and that Obama would represent “more of the same” and convince voters that McCain is running as the anti-Bush. The first post-convention ad McCain unveiled on Saturday was meant to advance the former goal, and its new spot (released this morning) is an aggressive attempt at advancing the latter. John McCain and Sarah Palin are the “original mavericks:”

The ad lists Palin and McCain’s credentials as reformers intent on taking on Washington as if they were the ultimate outsiders. One claim is sure to inflame Democrats and hopefully will also shake up the press: The ad says that Palin stopped the “bridge to nowhere” despite the fact that numerous reports have shown that she campaigned on a pro-bridge platform in her gubernatorial bid just 18 months ago. The Obama campaign quickly came out with a release pointing out that the ad is a “lie” and some media outlets seem to be willing to call McCain out on it.

I was already puzzled that Palin chose to reiterate that claim in her acceptance speech last Wednesday, but it now seems clear that the GOP is daring Democrats to go after Palin, as they are eager to focus the attention on the bottom of their ticket.

In fact, this seems to be the GOP’s entire gamble at the moment - that the electorate is going to focus on Palin. The very obvious risk of McCain’s talking about change this much is that voters associate that word with the Obama campaign, not only because it has become his slogan but also because of his race, youth and party label. For the McCain campaign to now be this confident that it can wrestle away the change mantle means that they believe Palin will counter Obama’s advantages because of her gender, her youth and her atypical profile - and by portraying her as an outsider who has battled the Alaska GOP, they hope to make her seem as an anti-Bush maverick the way McCain isn’t being able to.

Like everything else about Palin, this is a huge gamble. For one, there is no precedent for voters thinking enough about a vice-presidential candidate to compare her to a presidential nominee. Second, there is little evidence for now that Palin is proving strong among independents, though there is no question that she is a force among the GOP base. Third, this means that the McCain campaign is betting a lot of its strategy on a candidate who is untested at the national stage.

But Marc Ambinder points out that the fact that it has never happened before does not mean that it cannot happen now. Palin is generating a lot of coverage in the final stretch of the election - that in itself is unprecedented and gives McCain a fighting change to wrestle the change mantle away from Obama. If McCain’s Palin strategy succeeds, he could gain a significant advantage among independents which would put him at the top when combined with the boost in enthusiasm among the Republican base.

In the wake of the McCain campaign’s shift, down-the-ballot Republicans are following his lead. For much of the past few months, Norm Coleman has been focused on attacking Al Franken to disqualify him in the minds of voters. His latest spot brings back the bowling alley character his campaign introduced a few months back, but this time the argument has changed, as the man touts Coleman’s “gift” to bring the two parties together:

As long as Republicans don’t go as far as Gordon Smith’s ads embracing Obama, these down-the-ballot ads will amplify the McCain campaign’s argument that the GOP is no longer Bush’s party and that independents can trust Republicans once again. But there is also a risk here: Won’t McCain’s claim that he is an atypical politican, an original maverick be hurt if all Republicans start making the same argument?


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McCain’s new change strategy is a risky one

We learned last Friday that McCain likes to gamble, and its new-found determination to wrestle the mantle of change away from Obama is yet another example of that.

Not only should the Republican ticket not be blamed for the failures of the Bush Administration, the GOP is now saying, but McCain is most apt at taking the country in a new direction. Forget experience, forget familiarity, forget patriotism: Even if voters just think about who represents true change, they should settle on McCain.

This is a revolutionary departure from what we expected the GOP’s general election argument to be. Sure, we knew that McCain needed to show that he is enough of a break with the Bush Administration to even be considered by voters, but that was meant to serve as a prelude to an argument over experience. For much of the spring and summer, that is the tactic Republicans used: By blasting Obama as an enigmatic and unprepared novice, they were hoping to get voters fearful of voting for this Democrat, however much they would want the Democratic Party in power.

The GOP is likely to continue voicing that argument, and it was an undertone of the Republican convention. But it was not the priority, nor does it appear like it will be over the next few weeks. This is obviously a huge risk on the part of the McCain campaign. For one, their experience argument was actually working, as Obama was on the defensive throughout August and as his lead slowly dwindled. Republicans still had a lot of work to do to make voters have enough doubts about Obama to desert the Democratic ticket, but they were certainly on the right path.

Second, change is Obama’s strong point, and it is very dangerous for Republicans to push voters to think about who is the true change agent. This is not just because Obama uses the word “change” a lot - undecided voters worry that it is an empty slogan - but because of his party label. Obama is a Democrat. Democrats represent change from a Republican Administration whose approval rating is dismally low.

The equation is rather simple, but McCain is now intent on disrupting it by running as an anti-Bush maverick who would shake up the GOP and throw out the Bush cronies. there were suggestions of that throughout the convention, especially in Lieberman and McCain’s speeches week, and if he takes it far enough this could very well be a winning strategy that brings rewards to McCain.

But the second part of McCain’s strategy - to argue that Democrats are part of the ruling class and are thus as responsible for the country’s problems - is a risky one that could easily backfire.

On Wednesday night of the Republican convention, the speakers did their best to convince voters that they had been out of power for the past eight years and like they were the ones running against the incumbent party, as they stunningly railed against the establishment and Washington. In a new ad released yesterday, the McCain campaign continues that strategy by associating Obama with (completely unknown)  congressional Democrats. The ad appropriates Obama’s slogan, calling him “more of the same:”

That the faces to which Obama is being associated are those of Sens. Leahy, Dorgan, Dodd, Reid and Schumer is emblematic of the strategy’s problem: Do Republicans truly believe that in this election year “liberal congressional Democrats” are as effective boogeymen as Bush, especially when no swing voter is going to recognize and react to any of these faces? (If anything, North Dakota voters might be offended by the spot, as Dorgan is popular in his home state, so it’s a good thing for McCain his ad isn’t running there.)

Republicans believe that the electorate’s mood is anti-incumbent, not anti-Republican. They also believed that in 2006, though they ended up losing 31 House seats and 6 Senate seats while Democrats lost none. The GOP is betting that will change now that Congress is in Democratic hands and that congressional approval ratings are at all-time lows, but are voters blaming congressional Democrats, or is that just part of the package of their hatred for what Washington has become? (Do most voters even know that Congress is in Democratic hands?) The fact that the electorate’s partisan identification has continued to shift towards Democrats in the past two years is a sign that the electorate is primarily blaming Republicans, not all incumbents.

Ultimately, voters are unlikely to ever think of Obama as “more of the same” - at least not in a sense they might hold against him. In fact, it would be a good thing for Obama to look like he is “the same” as other Democrats. Voters’ primary fear is that Obama is too different, and Obama has been doing his best to make his story, his background more familiar to voters. Voters want a Democrat but are unsure about this Democrat, so would they not be reassured that Obama is like others in his party?

If Obama is just another liberal Democrat, can he also be an enigmatic and unknown figure verging on the Manchurian candidate, with suspicious allegiances? “Who is Obama?” has been a subtext of conservative attacks, and here McCain is supplying a response: Just a congressional Democrat, just like all these other old white men so harmless that you haven’t even heard of them before. That might be a liability every other year, but not in 2008, not for a black candidate some voters have trouble connecting to.

Another major innovation of this ad is that it will run in Florida! As we have often talked about, Obama has been airing ads in the state since June, while McCain has stayed out, ceding Florida’s airwaves to the Democrat. But that will no longer be the case, which should reassure Republicans who were worried that McCain’s silence in Florida was giving an opening to Obama. It is however puzzling that McCain waited for September to invest in the Sunshine State. Once a candidate is restricted by public financing, he typically cuts the number of states he is investing in rather than adding to them.

Can McCain sustain his investment in all 12 states in which he is now advertising, particularly with numbers in North Carolina, Indiana and Montana (all states in which McCain is not playing) continuing to be close? Can McCain entirely rely on the RNC to organize those red-leaning states in which the McCain campaign cannot afford to invest?

As for Democrats, they ought to have mixed feelings about those few weeks in which they had Florida’s airwaves to themselves. Obama was trailing widely in Florida throughout the spring, but he stormed back to make Florida a toss-up, seizing his first poll lead in late June and leading in a number of polls in July. But as the campaign narrative shifted in August, McCain climbed back into a relatively consistent advantage (here is Florida’s summer polling history). As we head into the final stretch, Florida’s 27 electoral votes lean towards McCain, though the state remains highly competitive.


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McCain ad compares Palin to Obama, as media vetting continues and GOP women blast coverage

By now, most of you have surely seen the latest version of John McCain’s celebrity ad that asks what remains if you “take away the crowds and the chants.” The answer: Barack Obama’s connection to the (unpopular) Democratic Congress and its tax-and-spend mentality. The GOP has used ads like this for years, but in the past decade, the liberal icons who were invoked were Hillary Clinton and Ted Kennedy - both known enough nationally to be effective boogeymen. But McCain can hardly invoke Clinton (not after this or this) and Kennedy this year, and this ad has fallen back on Harry Reid, Chris Dodd, Pat Leahy and… Byron Dorgan.

I hope my North Dakotan readers forgive me, but even I would have been entirely incapable of recognizing Sen. Dorgan from his picture. I cannot imagine that most TV viewers would know who Dodd and Leahy are, and since the ad doesn’t provide any subtitled names I doubt many will be able to identity Harry Reid either. It’s hard to understand what devoting the McCain campaign hopes to accomplish by devoting so much of the ad’s visuals to tying Obama to old white men few will recognize.

With the Palin media frenzy continuing, however, the McCain campaign has bigger fishes to fry and they have already moved to a new ad that is sure to get a lot of attention (though Politico’s Martin is skeptical as to whether the ad will actually air that much):

It is quite extraordinary for a presidential campaign to cut an ad contrasting its vice-presidential candidate to the other party’s presidential nominee. That is not a comparison voters usually make when choosing their ticket, but given how much criticism Palin’s qualifications have attracted, the McCain campaign wants to give her more credibility. The ad argues that if voters are comfortable with Obama’s experience they have no reason to have any doubts about Palin.

But it is primarily the change argument that this spot is designed to push. There is no defense of Palin’s executive experience here and her management of thousands of state employees; what the ad highlights is her “credentials as a reformer.” In what is the GOP’s usual argument, Obama is dismissed as an empty suit blinded by fame and whose reputation as an agent of change is nothing but “empty words.” Obama is just more of the same, the ad claims, “liberal” and into big oil. The ad goes on to put forward Palin as the true agent of change who has not only talked the talk, but also walked the walk.

Focusing on change over experience is a risk for the McCain campaign, as Hillary Clinton was not able to wrestle the change argument away from the Illinois Senator. Simply put, voters think of Obama when they think of change and McCain when they think of experience. Joe Lieberman made a strong case yesterday for why McCain is both simultaneously - a steady leader at a time of crisis, and a maverick who would break away from the Bush agenda - but will that be enough? When the time will come for voters to make their decision, they will compare Obama and McCain (not Obama and Palin) and the Arizona Senator can’t afford to have them think about who the true agent of change would be.

That said, the McCain campaign deliberately chose a strategy of change when it picked Palin last week, and it is surely not escaped them that the focus of the coverage she has receiving have shifted from a criticism of her degree of experience to one of her reformist credentials. (extreme conservatism, earmarks, AIP, troopergate). The Obama campaign is doing its best to shift the conversation there by being increasingly proactive about attacking Palin.

For the first few days, they mostly stayed away, content to let the press do its job. But some Democrats might be getting nervous that the media frenzy might backfire among women. The McCain campaign is doing its best to encourage such a backlash, as GOP leaders have been stepping up their attacks on Democratic sexism. This spot continues the GOP’s new strategy of introducing more or less subtle attempts at gender wars: TPM notes that the lines about Palin are read by a female voice, those about Obama are read by a man.

The more the criticism Palin receives is focused on her personal life, the more this backlash is likely to take place and the Obama campaign is now trying to prevent that. They feel that there are enough political topics on which Palin can be discredited that they ought to stir the conversation in that direction. That is exactly what Obama spokesperson Bill Burton is trying to do in this statement: “What she needs to do, however, is explain her reformer credentials in light of the revelations that she supported the Bridge to Nowhere and hired a big lobbying firm to win her small town millions in earmarks.”

Today’s ad is a response to the coverage Palin is getting, and as such it is a reactive ad. The Palin pick was designed to shake up the race, but it looks like McCain has lost control. Even The View demands to know more about Palin, whom multiple articles are now saying has been “secluded.” Articles like this stunning piece by Howard Kurtz will do nothing to change that narrative, and neither will the Washington Post’s revelation today that Palin was not subjected to a lengthy face-to-face interview before Wednesday, a mere day before McCain finalized his choice.

Today, the AIP is about to be replaced by a new controversy as the most damaging skeleton in Palin’s closet. The press is now zeroing in on controversial comments that were given at Palin’s church in Palin’s presence just two weeks ago by the leader of Jews for Jesus, David Brickner. And so the slow drip of news continues, distracting the McCain campaign on a day that is meant as a celebration of Palin. If nothing else, this story will make it more difficult for Republican groups to use Jeremiah Wright in the next few weeks. To their credit, the McCain campaign has shown no sign it will go there, but independent groups and state parties have.

Here again, we need to remember that voters will contrast Obama to McCain, not to Palin, so that the Palin-Brickner connection will not protect Obama when Wright comes up. After all, Obama and Wright have a long relationship and nothing indicates that Palin had anything to do with Brickner nor Jews for Jesus prior to that sermon from August.

But the parallel between the Brickner story and the Wright story is hard to miss. In fact, any story devoted to one will now probably have a brief paragraph mentioning to the other - and that has the potential of bringing back Wright just as much as it has the potential to embarass Palin. The McCain campaign certainly pounced on the occasion: “If the Obama campaign wants to have a debate about who was in church for what sermon, that’s not an argument we’re going to shy from,” said a McCain spokesperson. The last time the McCain campaign made such a statement was over housing two weeks ago. Soon after, Tony Rezko made a comeback. Are we about to see more of Wright?

Update: Well, in case we had any doubt that the McCain campaign is aiming at gaining among female voters by pushing a backlash against the coverage Palin is receiving, Republican women put on a giant show today at the convention center, blasting the Obama campaign and the press for their “smear” campaign against the Alaska Governor.


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GOP ponders fate of summer attacks, Obama continues strategy of narrow advertisments

For the past month, Obama and McCain’s advertisement campaigns have been relying on different strategies. On the one hand, the McCain campaign has released a series of ads that hammer the same “dangerously unprepared celebrity” theme. These ads use similar graphics, the same brown background, that same creepy female voice. They are not specific to a region or to a demographic because they attack Obama’s character and qualifications, the goal being to shape the campaign’s coverage by putting the spotlight on Obama and planting one overarching worry in voters’ mind - that he is not “ready to lead.”

While the Obama campaign has also been pushing an overarching theme (McCain=Bush=awful economy) nationally, it has also unleashed a wave of issue-specific and state-specific attacks. They have often not released those spots to the media, ensuring that the GOP’s response is delayed. That has often given us the impression that the Obama campaign was pulling punches, but they have been on the offensive in Ohio over DHL, Georgia over Ralph Reed, Nevada over Yucca Mountain.

Now, the GOP is facing a big problem. Its summer attacks had been remarkably successful in putting Obama on the defensive and tightening the race. Republicans had been laying the ground for mounting attacks on Obama’s experience, and they had just recently added the word “dangerously” in front of the “not ready to lead” slogan. But Sarah Palin’s pick directly contradicts that one overarching theme that the McCain campaign has been pushing so hard. Voters might judge Palin’s experience-level to be adequate, but can the GOP continue pushing Obama’s inexperience as an argument? If not, what happens to all that summer groundwork? The New York Times reports that this could become a problem next week as the convention had been designed to focus on Obama’s readiness level:

Republican organizers said the convention aides in charge of reviewing every speech delivered from the lectern are now on the watch for blunt attacks on Mr. Obama’s readiness to lead, and reviewing how much to emphasize what had been the convention theme: “Not Ready ’08.” They are aware that such criticism in a high-profile setting would provide an opportunity for Democrats to make the same charge against Ms. Palin. …

“We’ve been told for the last few months that experience is what matters most in the next White House,” said John Scates, a delegate from St. Louis. “But McCain is picking someone whose experience is little to nothing or, at best, unknown.

The convention was meant to make the case against Obama, and the GOP really needs to make him look unacceptable. How will they do so now, and is it not too late to introduce an entirely new narrative now? The McCain campaign had two choices to go with: (1) Obama is all-fame no-substance, (2) Obama is a dangerous radical. Most of McCain’s ads have been pushing the first narrative, but groups on the periphery (state Republican parties, AIE) have been playing with the second. Will McCain now turn to the second as well, and how long before Wright is invoked in Republican ads? Is it too late to make this happen for next week’s convention?

Meanwhile, Obama looks to be continuing its strategy of state and issue-specific ads. Just today the campaign unveiled two separate spots. The first is devoted to the economy and will air in Michigan. It accuses McCain of opposing government help to automakers and having voted to give tax cuts to companies that ship job oversees. A similar message could be used in other states, but Michigan is of course particularly hit by the auto-industry crisis and the economic downturn in general.

The second ad, narrated by Joe Biden, touts his Scranton roots and describes Obama’s roots as similar to his. Biden, who represents Delaware, calls Scranton “home,” an obvious play for Pennsylvania. And not only is this ad state-specific, but it is region-specific as well: it will only air in Northeastern Pennsylvania!

The Obama campaign will surely monitor the reception of that Scranton ad, as well as the success of the convention’s pushing the narrative of Obama as the embodiment of the American Dream. If blue-collar voters are feeling reassured, similar ads should be seen throughout Pennsylvania and Biden should be dispatched to blue-collar areas in states like Ohio, North Carolina.

Michigan and Pennsylvania are two must-win states for the Obama campaign. They were both won by Gore and Kerry and it is difficult to envision Obama winning the White House while losing either of these. Democrats seem like they intend to treat Pennsylvania as Biden’s home state, but some Republicans think Palin will play well in both of these states by appealing to Pennsylvania’s suburban women and by exciting the Michigan and Western Pennsylvania social conservatives.

There could be more localized advertisement to come. That same New York Times article reports that the Obama campaign feels it needs to attack McCain on abortion and pay equity and make a more explicit push for the undecided female vote. (Those issues have not been a focus of the campaign so far.) Odds are Obama would not air ads warning that McCain would threaten Roe v. Wade nationally nor in entire states. The suburbs of Philadelphia, for instance, would be a good area to hit McCain and Palin on abortion, as the GOP’s pro-life platform has long hurt the party’s outreach among female in that region. More generally, pointing out that Palin is to the right of McCain on abortion and perhaps talking more about judges will be key for Obama to hold on to Hillary supporters.


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As Dems start convention, Obama campaign pushes back on Ayers ad

Let’s face it, negative ads often work and candidates who believe otherwise learn that the hard way (see Kerry, John). The McCain campaign’s attacks on Obama’s character, suspicious rhetoric and celebrity-like lack of substance allowed the GOP to take control of the race’s coverage for the first time in months - but even their Rezko ad paled in comparison to the swift-boating standard. And with reports indicating that no credible independent groups were emerging in 2008 as they did in 2004, it appeared like we would get through the summer without Swift Boat-style efforts to tarnish the candidates.

Four days ago, however, a group called the American Issues Project released an ad linking Obama to William Ayers and announced they would put $3 million behind it in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Michigan. It was still a question mark as to whether they would actually follow through, and whether they had that much money, but that question was answered today. The group, funded by wealthy conservatives, indeed made that large an ad buy - guaranteeing that plenty of voters in all those states will hear that Obama has ties with a former member of a terrorist group.

When an ad goes into swift-boating territory, it becomes difficult to predict what impact it might have - at which point will it cross the line after which attacks backfire? 2004 showed that line is pretty hard to cross, especially when an attack feeds a pre-existing narrative, however unfair and baseless that narrative is. The storyline the AIP ad pushes (that Obama is an enigma whose true allegiances and principles are unknown) is one that has been floated for months, and this ad clearly has the potential to be damaging.

(Note: Another ad, released by the Black Republican PAC, is now airing in some Ohio markets accusing Obama of “infanticide.” It is unclear how big this ad buy is - until we get an indication that it is a big buy this doesn’t necessarily deserve more attention, but it confirms that GOP-leaning groups are dialing up their attacks.)

The Obama campaign immediately went on the war path to push back on the ad’s message. They have two different strategies. First, unveil the response ad that will start airing on Monday:

In 2004, John Kerry waited too long a time before answering the Swift Boat ads. By the time he finally organized a push-back, it was too late to convince the electorate that what they had been hearing for weeks was baseless. This year, the Obama campaign is wasting no time to point out two basic fact-checking information: (1) That Obama was eight years old when the attack the ad references occurred and (2) Obama has “denounced” the “crimes” of “radical” Bill Ayers.

What is very interesting is that Obama’s ad attributes the attack to John McCain - even though it is an independent expenditure that has not been coordinated with his campaign. This is a way to tie McCain with the increasing negativity of the campaign and make him suffer whatever backlash the AIP’s spot receives. And the McCain campaign made as surprising a choice - to embrace the AIP’s charge and respond to Obama’s response by pushing the Ayers attack. Said McCain’s spokesperson:

“The fact that Barack Obama chose to launch his political career at the home of an unrepentant terrorist raises more questions about Senator Obama’s judgment than any TV ad ever could. And the fact that he’s launching his own Convention by defending his long association with a man who says he didn’t bomb enough U.S. targets tells us more about Barack Obama than any of tonight’s speeches will.”

As far as I can remember, Bush never embraced the swift-boat ads this closely, as he was content to let independent groups demolish Kerry’s reputation over the summer. But the McCain campaign has just indicated that Ayers is fair game, and prepare to hear much more about it in the next few weeks.

Obama’s second strategy could be even more effective - if it succeeds. The campaign is working to get the ad off the airwaves. As Ben Smith reports, they have filed a complaint with the Department of Justice claiming that the ad directly advocates against Obama’s candidacy, something independent groups cannot do if they want to escape spending limits. The campaign is organizing its supporters to send in thousands of letters to TV stations pressuring them to not air the ad. Finally, the campaign is pointing out that there is no evidence that Ayers is connected to the Capitol bombing and that networks could be opening themselves up to slander. CNN, Fox News and some local affiliates are not airing the ad, though other networks (and Sinclair’s networks) are.

Overall, Democrats have reason to both worry and be reassured. On the one hand, Republican-leaning independent groups are better funded and more determined to tarnish the Illinois Senator than was believed a few months ago. On the other hand, the Obama campaign’s strategy to deal with such attacks is more aggressive one than John Kerry’s was four years ago.


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New GOP ads hit Obama on party unity

In my previous post, I explained that the Clinton-Obama relationship will be the most crucial convention storyline. As if a press eager to find signs of division was not enough, Obama will also have to deal with a Republican Party eager to increase the rift between Clinton supporters and the Democratic nominee. The GOP is perfectly aware that it will make Obama’s next two months of polling miserable if it can capture Clinton supporters and the party intends to make a push for it throughout this week.

In the past 48 hours, the McCain campaign and the RNC unveiled 3 ads using Hillary Clinton, leaving little doubt that Republicans see great potential in the 18 million votes Clinton received. First, the campaign was ready with an ad blaming Obama for dissing Clinton as soon as he announced his vice-presidential pick. This ad, released on Saturday, revisits some of the comments Clinton made about Obama during the primaries.

And here is another ad that the campaign has released in the Denver market alone - a clear signal that they want to inject as much reporting of Clinton-Obama discord in the convention coverage:

And the RNC is following that up with an independent expenditure that calls Obama “the most inexperienced candidate of our times” - framing this as Clinton’s argument against her primary opponent. The ad uses footage of Clinton delivering what was one of her harshest lines (”Senator McCain will bring a lifetime of experience to the campaign. I will bring a lifetime of experience. Senator Obama will bring a speech he gave in 2002″). “Was she right?” asks the ad?

We don’t know the size of McCain’s ad buys, but Jonathan Martin has some information about the RNC’s independent expenditure: The buy is somewhere between $2 and $2.5 million and will throughout this week in Ohio, Michigan, Western Pennsylvania (all Clinton states and regions) as well as Wisconsin and Colorado. Clinton isn’t particularly strong in that last state, but that buy is designed to counter-balance the coverage of Democratic unity the convention could receive in the local press.

This is the RNC’s second ad. The first, released in June, was devoted to the energy and it ran in only 4 states - MI, PA, OH and WI. Note that it the same as this new RNC expenditure. Wisconsin’s place in the top of RNC targets is somewhat less expected than Michigan’s and Pennsylvania’s, and it suggests that Republicans have absolutely not given up on the state, despite Obama holding a comfortable edge in the latest polling.

Update with Clinton’s response: “I’m Hillary Clinton and I do not approve that message,” she said to the New York delegation, adding “Now I ask each and every one of you to work as hard for Obama as you worked for me.” The Obama campaign needs to make sure that message is not muddied over the next few days, that she delivers it forcefully and that every Hillary supporter hears it. Meanwhile, Clinton aide Howard Wolfson writes a piece in the New Republic acknowledging the rift between his former boss and Obama and giving advice as to how the two camps should fix that. (He confirms that one of the big sticking points for Bill is that Obama has not respected his 90s record.)


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Wealth, fame, age, corruption: How will the latest attacks play out? [Updated with new Obama ad]

In The Audacity of Hope, Obama wrote, “I am new enough on the national political scene that I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.” That proved to be an asset throughout the Democratic primaries; but we have been seeing in the general election that a blank screen is also something on which people can project their biggest fears.

I was initially skeptical that the “celebrity” ads were a winning strategy for the GOP, but as soon as the McCain campaign showed its determination to air ads after ads pushing that theme, I realized that they could be effective because they played into the central fear voters have about Obama - that they do not know enough about him to take the risk of electing him. And it is the fact that Obama still represents a mystery (no doubt partly because of his race and biography) that explains why the GOP is playing on so many narratives at the same time, many of which appear to contradict each other.

Obama as a Britney-like celebrity would seem to rule out his being a Manchurian candidate intent on destroying America or his being a radical black liberationist looking to upset white America; and if he is just a naive spirit, can Obama also be a corrupted politician, seasoned in the establishment machine? If it were running against a more defined candidate, the McCain campaign would be committing political malpractice by pushing so many contradicting themes that none would be likely to stick. But the situation is different against Obama: their argument is not necessarily that Obama is Britney, nor that he is a radical anarchist or a corrupt politician, but simply that there is no way of knowing (”What do you know about Barack Obama?” asked yesterday’s Ayers ad), that Obama is too much of a risk.

The GOP argument comes to this: Until voters know for sure that he isn’t a terrorist and until they know for sure he isn’t a vapid pop sensation and until they know for sure that he isn’t a cross of Malcolm X and Jeremiah Wright, they should go for McCain, with whom they have had a trusting relationship for a long time.

At what point does the McCain campaign overplay its hand? Today, the McCain campaign unveiled yet another version of its celebrity ad, and this one makes me scratch my head even more than previous ones:

“Celebrities don’t have to worry about family budgets,” a female announcer says with the familiar background noise of supporters chanting “O-ba-ma.” And she continues: “But we sure do.” Coming a day after McCain’s comments on houses, is this really where McCain wants to take the debate right now? And is the ad’s use of the pronoun “we” not going to make him even more vulnerable to reports about the number of houses he owns - especially as it comes in a message McCain has sponsored?

It is true that the houses story does not reinforce a prior impression voters have of McCain, thus limiting its impact; but McCain is trying to make himself look like part of the middle-class (as opposed to the wealthy/elitist/aragula-loving Obama), so reports about his wealth could make him look like a fraud. (Not to mention that Obama’s ad on houses might also be playing on McCain’s age with statements like “he lost track,” and that’s another topic on which McCain is vulnerable.)

By making the election about character, they are opening the Arizona Senator to also be attacked - something Kerry did not really do against Bush in 2004. The houses fiasco was a debacle for the McCain campaign, as it was the sort of gaffe that the non-political press covers extensively since it allows them to do what they have to do (cover politics) but keep an entertainment angle. Marc Ambinder notes that local nightly news all over the country had a segment about McCain’s gaffe last night, for instance this one in Raleigh-Durham. We will see how far Democrats are able to push this, but their coordination yesterday was very impressive: Within hours, the Obama campaign had released an ad, surrogates had been mobilized and the episode had been integrated to Obama’s stump speech.

And however strong McCain’s Rezko ad was (it certainly has the potential of being effective), having both Tony Rezko and William Ayers reintroduced in the political conversation on August 21st, right before Obama’s VP pick and the Democratic nomination, could not be what the McCain campaign was envisioning. Yes, Rezko will be in the news for a long time since his sentencing will take place on October 28th (talk about bad timing for Obama), but these are attacks the GOP was keeping stored somewhere to launch larger attacks at a time they would have better control of the message. They can certainly push Rezko/Ayers more, but given that both stories were rehashed in the Democratic primary the press will start treating them as old news at some point.

Update: The Obama campaign has released a second ad exploiting McCain’s houses comments. It is very similar to the one released yesterday (it still uses McCain’s quotes that the economy is strong, and refers to his $5 millions comments), but it attacks McCain much more directly for being rich himself and for being out of touch (it calls him a “country club Republican”). The ad also uses footage of McCain in a golf cart with Bush senior, in what is both a reference to his wealth (golf cart, leisurely) and most certainly to his age:

It’s still unclear where the ad will run, and whether Obama is getting a bigger buy than the national cable he went for yesterday. So the election has now become a contest on which candidate is richer - with McCain’s ad saying Obama did not have a tight budget and Obama’s saying that the economy is strong for people like McCain. But the Republican will not win this game because, well, McCain is much wealthier and Obama does not have eight houses. Note that Obama uses the pronoun “you,” which leaves him less open to the criticism of being a fraud, whereas the pronoun “we” in McCain’s ad is what I found particularly offensive.



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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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Confusion in Connecticut (Updated)

  • 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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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 'EDT/-4.0/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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