Monday, September 15, 2008

A powerful service workers union backing Democrat Barack Obama started a $2.1 million ad campaign Sunday that attacks Republican John McCain on the economy.

The Service Employees International Union is running a TV commercial in six states that could be competitive in the presidential election: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Mexico, Wisconsin and Iowa. The union’s efforts are independent of Obama’s presidential campaign, but the ad strikes many of the same themes.

“Our effort with this ad is to put (the campaign) back on the economic issues,” Anna Burger, the union’s secretary-treasurer, said in a conference call with reporters. “When you talk to voters about what they care about, they care about the economy.”

The ad was released on the same day the Obama campaign started running a commercial saying a McCain administration would be run by lobbyists, part of a long-running debate about which campaign has closer ties to lobbyists.

The union ad shows a family talking about how they have been hurt by the nation’s struggling economy, followed by abbreviated versions of two oft-cited quotes from Mr. McCain, the Republican nominee for president.

“John McCain said, ‘I know a lot less about economics. I still need to be educated,’”an announcer says in the ad. “No wonder he said we’re better off than we were eight years ago. It’s time for change.”

The ad also shows a clip of Mr. Obama talking to an audience, saying, “My tax cut would benefit middle-class families three times as much as John McCain’s.”

Mr. McCain has hammered Obama on taxes, saying in ads and speeches that Obama wants to raise taxes because he favors repealing tax cuts for the wealthy pushed through by President Bush. Mr. Obama has also proposed tax cuts for middle-income taxpayers, and at least one independent group says Mr. Obama’s plan would save those taxpayers more money than Mr. McCain’s plan.

Alex Conant, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said the ad is misleading.

“Even big unions can’t defend Obama’s plans to raise taxes, so they’re (running) misleading attacks on John McCain instead,” Mr. Conant said in an e-mail. “These are the sorts of special-interest ads that Obama criticized before he began slipping in the polls and opted to unleash big unions’ attacks.”

The first quote attributed to McCain is from a 2005 interview with The Wall Street Journal. “I’m going to be honest,” Mr. McCain told the newspaper. “I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated.”

The second quote is from a Republican presidential debate in January.

“I think you could argue that Americans overall are better off, because we have had a pretty good prosperous time, with low unemployment and low inflation and a lot of good things have happened. A lot of jobs have been created,” Mr. McCain said at the debate in Simi Valley, Calif.

The 2-milllion member SEIU was Mr. Obama’s first major union supporter, and was rewarded with three speaking slots at the Democratic National Convention.

Jon Youngdahl, the union’s political director, said the union is planning other campaign ads.

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