- The Washington Times - Monday, July 14, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

A month after the primaries have officially ended, gone are the television-ad blitzes about who is the best Democrat or Republican to be in the race for the White House to be replaced by messages explaining who is the best person to live there. Barack Obama starts out of the gate with two national ad buys, one describing his love for America and the values he has learned from his white grandparents and mother, with pictures to boot. Another details some key policies he has helped enact in the U.S. Senate and Illinois Senate that were discovered later to have little to do with him. This included welfare to work, a policy he supported reluctantly after opposing it.

Mr. Obama appears to be trying to reach the political center of America with both his policy record and “Country I Love” ads. Many Republicans have urged John McCain to hit back, calling on him to take Mr. Obama to task for his “inaccuracies” and misstatements about his record and policy positions. There is an opportunity for Mr. McCain to hammer Mr. Obama over his claims to have “slashed the [welfare] rolls by 80 percent,” “passed tax cuts for workers” and “extended healthcare for wounded troops who had been neglected.” But to date he has not done so.

One of Mr. McCain’s own ads is strong, and does hit Mr. Obama on some key points: “John McCain doesn’t always tell us what we hope to hear. Beautiful words cannot make our lives better, but a man who has always put his country and her people before self before politics can. Don’t hope for a better life, vote for one - McCain.” It’s a great ad. The problem is we have heard it before, just not from Mr. McCain. We wrote in early June about Mr. McCain’s strategy to mimic Hillary Clinton’s attacks on Mr. Obama’s rhetoric and his oratorical skills, arguing that they are nothing but smoke and mirrors and do not constitute reasons to vote for him. It did not work for Mrs. Clinton, so why do the McCain ad makers think it is going to work for their candidate?

The fact is it isn’t. Ronald Reagan’s trickle-down theories and many of the other policies he espoused in the 1980 presidential race were derided by is opponents, including George H. W. Bush, as just a lot of “voudoo” talk. But they were pretty good talk, and at the end of the day it was Mr. Reagan’s ability to inspire and bring hope to people with is words that led him to one of the largest margins of victory in electoral history. Attacking an opponent’s rhetoric does not win elections. But being able to articulate your policy positions and demonstrate how they are superior to those of your opponent can be a forumla for victory.

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