- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Sen. Barack Obama’s camp on Monday depicted Sen. John McCain as a “lurching” lobbyist lover using “old” Washington politics, a harsh response to his Republican rival’s “celebrity” ad that a new poll shows may actually help Mr. Obama.

A Fox 5/Washington Times/Rasmussen Reports poll found that 84 percent of adults think the presidential hopefuls are running negative ads, and 44 percent of them said the ads have made them more likely to vote for Mr. Obama.

The Obama ad, called “Embrace,” shows Mr. McCain hugging President Bush and features six images of the Republican with the unpopular president. It uses the word “old” twice while showing images of the 71-year-old candidate, while the word “old” appears on the screen.

The Obama spot also portrays a group walking with Mr. McCain as “the lobbyists running his low-road campaign,” even though no one in the shot is registered as a lobbyist.

“For decades, he’s been Washington’s biggest celebrity,” the narrator says as the screen flashes shots of Mr. McCain receiving a rousing welcome while appearing on popular TV shows such as “Late Night with David Letterman” and “The View.” Mr. Obama has been on both shows.

With a shot of Mr. Bush kissing Mr. McCain on the head, the narrator says, “And as Washington embraced him, John McCain hugged right back.”

The McCain campaign brushed off the Obama ad and posted a Web ad of its own that portrayed the Democrat as an inexperienced rock star that “hot chicks dig.”

“John McCain is well-known for a lifetime of service to America and his record of fighting to reform Washington, while Barack Obama is simply a worldwide celebrity,” said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds.

An Obama spokesman did not respond to a request seeking clarification on the image used to portray Mr. McCain’s ties to lobbyists.

The shot that suggests that Mr. McCain is walking with “lobbyists” who are “running” his campaign is a bit off message, because the six people shown are the candidate; two Secret Service agents; economic adviser Meg Whitman of eBay fame; Greg Wendt, an investment manager who volunteers for the senator; and traveling press aide Brooke Buchanan.

Democrats have mounted an offensive against top McCain aides Charlie Black and Rick Davis, whose lobbying efforts have become a campaign issue. But those men are nowhere to be seen in the ad.

The Democratic National Committee pushed Web ads that tie Mr. McCain and his advisers to job losses in Ohio, labeling him “Job Killing John.” The Obama-backing AFL-CIO labor union group mailed fliers to 100,000 Ohio voters this week urging voters to call on Mr. McCain to fire Mr. Davis for his lobbying role in shipper DHL’s plan to move jobs from Ohio overseas.

The Obamaad follows several attempts by the McCain team to portray Mr. Obama as a vapid megastar unqualified to lead the nation. One ad, showing the Democrat along with Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, became a YouTube sensation and prompted Miss Hilton to hit back with her own tongue-in-cheek response.

As the “Celebrity” ad went viral on the Internet, national polls tightened to show the race neck and neck. It’s debatable whether the polls reflect the negative ads.

The Rasmussen poll released Monday showed that Mr. McCain’s attacks seemed to be helping Mr. Obama.

The poll showed that 41 percent think Mr. McCain has run negative ads while 17 percent think Mr. Obama has run them, and 26 percent said both have gone negative. Of that group, 44 percent said the ads make them “more likely to vote for” Mr. Obama, while 24 percent said the same for Mr. McCain. Another 24 percent said the ads had no impact.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe sent supporters a fundraising e-mail on Monday reprising a theme used after the “Celebrity” ad first aired.

“John McCain and the Republican National Committee are trying to convince you that you’ve been swept up and tricked into wanting change,” he wrote.

“While supporters like you are out knocking on doors, registering new voters and organizing in your local communities, our opponents are not even trying to match your efforts,” he said. “Instead, they’re spending millions to spread the smear that Barack is just a ‘celebrity’ and that our grassroots movement is just a bunch of mindless fans.”

He said Mr. McCain is “really attacking real people” and that the ad has encouraged new donations for the Obama campaign, which has set a record of 2 million supporters.

The Obama campaign said its 30-second spot will start running on national cable Tuesday while the Illinois Democrat is on vacation in Hawaii.

The ad accuses the Republican of wanting to give “billions in tax breaks” for oil and drug companies, while flashing the words “Nothing for you” on the screen. It also suggests that Mr. McCain is “lurching to the right, then the left, the old Washington dance, whatever it takes.”

It concludes with footage of the Arizona Republican on “Saturday Night Live,” a show on which Mr. Obama also has appeared.

“A Washington celebrity playing the same old Washington games,” the narrator says.

Mr. Obama used similar language when responding to attacks from his main Democratic primary rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, saying her ads were part of the “same old” game and used the same “tired” strategies that Washington insiders have deployed for years.

Mrs. Clinton, who is campaigning for Mr. Obama and will speak during prime time at the Democratic National Convention, is being urged by supporters to pursue a roll-call vote to respect the 18 million people who chose her during the long primary campaign.

An Atlantic Monthly article published Monday revealed e-mail exchanges among her top campaign aides that suggest bitter infighting on the team.

In one, strategist Mark Penn said Mrs. Clinton should point out that Mr. Obama is “not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and his values” because he was raised in Hawaii and lived in Indonesia as a child. He said Mrs. Clinton should stress her American roots and highlight that “contrast” “without turning negative.”

Joseph Curl contributed to this report.

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