November 26, 2008

The Ads McCain Wouldn't Run

From Time, "The Anti-Obama Ad Campaign that Never Happened:"

"My favorite ad of the campaign was as simple as it could be," [McCain advertising director Fred] Davis said. "And it started out something like, 'Long before the world knew of John McCain or Barack Obama, one of them spent five years in a hellhole because he refused early release to honor his fellow prisoners, while the other one wouldn't walk out of a church after 20 years of the guy spewing hatred towards America.' And the last line was, 'Character matters, especially when no one is listening.' " The ad never ran, however, because McCain ruled the topic of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the preacher of Obama's Chicago church, out of bounds shortly after he locked up the Republican nomination.

Good advertising men are almost always mischiefmakers at heart, the sort who don't mind a little confrontation and who revel in a bit of controversy. And so Davis is wistful at the missed opportunities of the McCain campaign. "I made a list once, which no one will ever see, of all the reasons that my hands were tied on this campaign," he says. "And I've never had a list this long." One of his biggest struggles, Davis says, was to come up with negative spots against a historic, groundbreaking candidate without stepping on taboos. "One of the big hands that I felt was tied behind my back was [that] so many things — like [Obama's record on] crime — you would logically do were perceived as 'Oh, we can't do that. That was playing the race card,' " he says, adding that the campaign created a whole series of crime attacks against Obama that were never aired. "Reverend Wright? 'Oh, can't do that; they'll say we are playing the race card.' [William] Ayers? For the longest time, 'Oh, can't do that. We're playing the race card.' "

Davis says that concern about race played a major role in the entire aesthetic of McCain's ads. The photographs of Obama that the ads used, for instance, which often showed Obama elongated and smiling, were carefully selected, he recalls. "We chose them with only one thing in mind, and that is to not make them bad pictures because bad pictures would be seen as racist," Davis says. "How many shots in their ads did they use a John McCain [photo] looking decent and smiling?" He says the campaign also agonized over the music in the ads, paying special care not to play drum-heavy tracks that could be seen as an African tribal reference. "We were held to a totally different standard," he says.

Nevertheless, the McCain campaign was unable to escape the charge that it was playing the race card. An Associated Press analysis called the campaign's invocations of the once violent 1960s radical Ayers "racially tinged" because they evoked the word terrorist. McCain was also accused of playing on race for running an ad that highlighted Obama's relationship with Franklin Raines, a former executive at Fannie Mae who is black. Says Davis: "I never saw anybody play the race card but the Obama campaign."

Well, imagine that! McCain castrated his own campaign, and yet the media still worked themselves into a hate-filled frenzy about Republican racists. Who could have guessed that would happen?

Also, I realize McCain is a "straight-shooter" and all that, but just maybe McCain should have mentioned to GOP voters during the primaries that if Obama ended up his opponent, he intended to more or less throw the election. I mean, I understand the voters are supposed to be kept in the dark as much as possible, but perhaps he could have let slip that he was going to take a dive in the general election, and just wanted the nomination to stroke his vanity.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


Stopped Clock said...

I think many Obama supporters would have continued to support him even if he were found sacrificing live goats in his backyard. Any depictions of extremism would just make them love him more. "He worked with Ayers to talk about Melanin Envy to white high schoolers? Ha! Take that, white America!" Nothing McCain could do would have turned them against their idol.

Sure, there were genuine swing voters, just like in every election, but their numbers were small. McCain could have won 100% of the voters who identified as "undecided" in September and likely still lost the election.

What he really needed to do was get more Republicans out to vote. More positive ads might have helped. Negative ads against Obama wouldn't have helped because Republicans already know that Obama worked with Ayers, Wright, etc. If this election was winnable at all, what it really needed was more Republicans voting, not fewer Democrats.

Also, I know I'm in a minority here with this opinion, but I don't think anti-Wright ads would do well, because

1) Many white Christians would see similarities between Wright and their own pastors/preachers/priests and interpret the ad as a marginalization of much of Protestant Christianity in general, and make them uncomfortable. (While I have never heard "God damn America!" in a church, I can rightfully claim to have had an anti-American preacher, who believed that America was governed by corrupt closet atheists and that Christians needed to prepare for a time when the government would actively seek to put Christians in jail.)

2) It could have backfired since MSNBC and other leftist news sources would feel free to play footage of Hagee and Muthee until the public got the point that there are other types of Christian radicals in the world.

3) Some 527s did air anti-Wright ads and from what we can tell they had no great effect on the voters.
That's my theory anyway.

rightsaidfred said...

>>>>I understand the voters are supposed to be kept in the dark...

Delicious on many levels.

eh said...

The last paragraph is trenchant.

Rick said...

You know, I always thought that if McCain REALLY wanted to win this election, he could have. And this only makes that feeling stronger. He was going to be called a racist anyway, he should have said "fuck it" and put these great ads out there.

The reason he didn't was the same reason he was not a good Republican candidate - he is not a core conservative and does not hold those values.

michael farris said...

I think he maybe intended to win until sometime after the Palin nomination.
I think more than anything the economic crisis took the wind out of his sails (combined maybe with medical problems hiz bizarro body language in the last debate look to me like mechanisms for coping with pain).

He was running for Wartime Commander in Chief Warrior President (a job he wanted) but in the last quarter the job was redefined Economic Policy Wonk President and he really didn't want anything to do with that.

Truth said...

This election seemed to me to be an obvious fix. It was decided who was going to win and who was going to loose even before the conventions, however in the small chance that it was legit, it seems quite obvious to me that a man who nominated an incompetent of little standing as VP in order to court the female vote was not going to dare run a negative ad campaign.

Remember, this is the same man who traded in his crippled wife for a younger, taller, richer model. If there was a pissing contest, McCain would have come out of it with yellow legs.

Of course there is that small point that I've made many times that WRIGHT NEVER SAID ANYTHING THAT SUGGESTS HE HATES WHITES. Which only suggests to me that the white population at large is a bit more intelligent than many of the posters here.

ben tillman said...

Of course there is that small point that I've made many times that WRIGHT NEVER SAID ANYTHING THAT SUGGESTS HE HATES WHITES. Which only suggests to me that the white population at large is a bit more intelligent than many of the posters here.

You haven't been paying attention. For whites, "racism" has nothing to do with hatred of other races; it consists of concern for one's own.

Jay Fink said...

McCain is such a liberal at heart that it wouldn't shock me if he, in the privacy of the voting booth, voted for Obama instead of himself.

Anonymous said...

McCain got to beat out all the Republicans, campaign "honorably" and concede graciously. That's probably all he really wanted. Congratulations John McCain.

koos said...

".. it seems quite obvious to me that a man who nominated an incompetent of little standing as VP .."

At least Palin is a governess with real responsibilities and is comfortable with media resistance, and not a snotty nosed-AA senator with zilch real responsibility and permanent zombie-like media worship.

neil craig said...

Same problem that lets so many special interest fanatics in politics win. They have an agenda that simply can't be satisfied whereas mainstream politicians, who believe in not alienating any voters, simply will not stand up against them.

The inevitable effect is that the mainstream politician will act to satisfy the SIFs, which increases the power of the SIFs by making them look both successful & correct & means they denounce the mainstreamer with a louder voice & in more strident terms as not having done enough.

This obviously applies not only, or even primarily, to the diversity lobby but to warming alarmists, anti-nuclearists, greens & the "put all Serbs in concentration camps" (Joe Biden quote) lobby etc etc.

The only answer is not only to confront them but to counter attack on all points where the evidence provides firm ground.

Truth said...

"At least Palin is a governess with real responsibilities..."

A governess? what is she, raising 12-year olds in a Manhattan penthouse?

Roy said...

Wright has said "white folks greed runs a world in need". Maybe that isn't based on hate, but its is clearly a reasonable assumption.

Anonymous said...

And in return for taking a dive, he got the strongest potential obstacle to his re-election, Gov. Janet Napolitano, out of the way--and a GOP governor successor, Jan Brewer, to boot!