December 28, 2007

A Tale Of Two Television Ads

Mitt Romney and John McCain have released competing ads in New Hampshire today. Both take different approaches, and may show a little about how each candidate views the Granite State. While McCain's ad showcases himself with ebullience in "The Choice Is Clear", Romney also focuses on McCain as the wrong choice in "Future":

As so-called attack ads go, this seems rather mild. It focuses on McCain's record, doesn't call him names, and even offers that McCain is an "honorable man". There's nothing objectionable about it in that sense. Campaigns are all about making choices, as both men make clear.

However, the decision to go after McCain with ten days left before the New Hampshire primary shows how close that race has become. If Romney still had a double-digit lead there, he never would utter the name McCain in any of his advertisements. He now needs to make the comparative case, and that means Romney has begun to sweat the results in the first two states on which he counted to sweep momentum behind him.

This supports the criticism of the Los Angeles Times poll that I wrote this morning. If Romney's internal polls showed a 14-point lead in New Hampshire, he wouldn't waste his valuable TV commercial real estate calling McCain an honorable man, or anything else. He'd be using the ad showing how he responded to the disappearance of his partner's daughter in New York City, as well as the other feel-good ads his team has expertly prepared.

McCain, meanwhile, has extended his argument regarding Pakistan and the necessity of a seasoned hand on the rudder:

Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee don’t often stress their foreign policy credentials. But what about Rudy Giuliani? Doesn’t he get a boost, too?

“My experience and background for 24 years in Congress and 22 years in the Navy qualifies me more than having done a fine job in a post-crisis situation,” McCain told me in a phone interview Thursday night.

McCain said he liked Giuliani and respected him, but that Giuliani’s “post-crisis” experience in dealing with the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York really did not equal McCain’s knowledge and experience.

Giuliani’s experience has “very little to do with national security issues,” McCain said after the rally in Urbandale.

Here, I think McCain is on less solid ground. His Navy experience certainly qualifies, but Senators don't manage crises; executives do. McCain has spent most of his Senate career on foreign-policy and armed-service issues, certainly, so he has an in-depth knowledge of both subjects. However, that doesn't necessarily show executive talent in crisis management. He may well have it, but it's not going to show from his Senate experience.

Romney, by the way, does have a rather deep understanding of foreign policy. It's not that he doesn't tout it, but that journalists usually waste time discussing the finer points of Mormonism with Romney rather than the issues. I interviewed Romney on foreign policy in June, and the transcript is at Heading Right. Does that make him a better choice in dealing specifically with Pakistan? I think McCain has the edge in this particular experience, but Romney (and Giuliani) also have the background and the principles to deal with the crisis as well.

NOTE: I'll add the McCain commercial as soon as it appears on YouTube.

UPDATE: McCain video added. One note about McCain's video -- it's very effective as a New Hampshire ad. It won't be effective elsewhere, while Romney's seems more national in scope. McCain's litany of newspaper endorsements include only one that anyone outside of the Granite State will recognize.


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