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Showing Their Softer Sides

By Howard Kurtz
The presidential campaign is getting personal.

As Christmas approaches, the candidates are using advertising to warm up their images--posing with their families, dispensing holiday greetings and, in one case, recounting the search for a colleague's missing daughter.

The shift in tone is driven in part by the Iowa caucus taking place just two days after New Year's, but also by the candidates' determination to humanize themselves after months of hard-edged issue ads.

Sen. Barack Obama, posing with his wife and two daughters in front of a fireplace and Christmas tree, reinforces his coming-together message: "In this holiday season we are reminded that the things that unite us as a people are more powerful and enduring than anything that sets us apart. And we all have a stake in each other, in something larger than ourselves."

A sweater-clad Mike Huckabee, also in front of a tree, emphasizes the religious nature of the holiday, as befits a former Baptist preacher courting evangelical voters. "Are you about worn out of all the television commercials you've been seeing?" he says. "Mostly about politics. I don't blame you." Huckabee says it is nice to "just remember that what really matters is the celebration of the birth of Christ and being with our family and our friends."

Rudy Giuliani dresses up his standard positions as a list of holiday wishes: "I wish for peace with strength. Secure borders. A government that spends less than it takes in. Lower taxes for our businesses and families." But the former New York mayor injects a note of levity with a cameo appearance by Santa Claus, who erupts in ho-ho-ho at the former mayor's hope that all the candidates just get along.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has been running commercials featuring her mother and daughter, took a similar tack yesterday. With music from "Carol of the Bells," an ad shows her with gifts under her tree labeled "Universal Health Care," "Alternative Energy," "Bring the Troops Home" and so on. The punch line, such as it is: "Where did I put universal pre-K?"

Another tack for breaking through the static is to focus on the plight of individuals. Mitt Romney unveiled an unusually emotional ad yesterday in which a former business partner, Robert Gay, recounts what happened in 1996 when his 14-year-old daughter disappeared in New York for three days.

Romney, says Gay, "stepped forward to take charge. He closed the company and brought almost all our employees to New York. He said, 'I don't care how long it takes - we're going to find her.' He set up a command center and searched through the night. The man who helped save my daughter was Mitt Romney." That is a very different portrait than the former Massachusetts governor boasting about his experience as a venture capitalist.

John Edwards also tries to personalize his argument on health care by focusing on a man named James Lowe, born with a cleft palate, who could not speak for 50 years because he was unable to afford the needed surgery. "This is wrong," the former North Carolina senator says. "It is immoral. When are we going stop letting drug companies, insurance companies and their lobbyists run this country?"

Sen. John McCain's signature issue has long been the Iraq war, so it is hardly surprising that he would make an ad about recent military progress there. But the spot is framed as a testimonial to his character.
"One man warned us we were failing in Iraq, and told us how we could turn things around," the narrator says. "More troops and a different strategy. He took a lot of heat, but he stood by what he knew was right. Today that strategy is working." The strategy that McCain needs to work is for Republican voters to think of him not as a maverick but as a courageous truth-teller.

By Washington Post editors  |  December 19, 2007; 5:46 PM ET
Categories:  A_Blog , Ad Watch  
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Next: Sad Day for Kucinich Family

Comments

Anyone interested in what Huckabee is really like face to face should try this funny (but it actually happened) column:
http://goupstate.us/index.php/lanefiller/2007/11/02/title_14


Posted by: lanefiller | December 20, 2007 12:23 AM | Report abuse

They're not humanizing themselves, they're just dehumanizing their families.

PS Why would Hillary have a "Bring the Troops Home" present under her tree?

Does that mean she wants Bill Richardson for Prez?

Posted by: bourassa1 | December 19, 2007 11:59 PM | Report abuse

Hillary's christmas ad was so awful and she looked so stiff and fake that I'm so very confident now that Obama is going to win Iowa big! And I mean big, ten points of more. Mark my words.

Posted by: lumi21us | December 19, 2007 11:03 PM | Report abuse

JakeD-If you would have noticed what I said, you would realize that it is not the Home Values(Rent), or even Gas Prices that are out of line. They Both exist in the Year 2007!
It is the 1975 Wages that are the problem! For the lack of enforcement of our labor laws, and the Obstructionistic Requirements to develope things like Refineries, I blame our Elected Reps!

For the record, and as a wake-up call,

Realize-

If the Labor to build a Home was trippled, it would amount to a small fraction added to the final cost!

The bigger difference, the one's building the Homes, would then be able to buy one!

Our leaders are pinching the wrong penny's!

Posted by: rat-the | December 19, 2007 8:21 PM | Report abuse

JakeD-If you would have noticed what I said, you would realize that it is not the Home Values(Rent), or even Gas Prices that are out of line. They Both exist in the Year 2007!
It is the 1975 Wages that are the problem! For the lack of enforcement of our labor laws, and the Obstructionistic Requirements to develope things like Refineries, I blame our Elected Reps!

For the record, and as a wake-up call,

Realize-

If the Labor to build a Home was trippled, it would amount to a small fraction added to the final cost!

The bigger difference, the one's building the Homes, would then be able to buy one!

Our leaders are pinching the wrong penny's!

Posted by: rat-the | December 19, 2007 8:18 PM | Report abuse

While Hillary displays her "softer side," a Clinton surrogate organization's ad -- with words attributed to EDWARDS -- makes extreme representations about what are treated as gross inadequacies in Obama's healthcare plan. NBC reports that a "new direct mail piece from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)" says that for "those without insurance, Barack Obama's band-aid solution is no change at all." NBC continues with a few further details.

Hey -- let's you guys fight while Clinton maintains she has nothing remotely to do with this.

Posted by: FirstMouse | December 19, 2007 7:56 PM | Report abuse

rat:

http://finance.google.com/finance?fstype=ci&cid=663876

They are indeed investing it here and elsewhere around the world to keep America running -- personally, I don't think 10% profit is that outrageous, but if the oil company stock is soaring, why exactly don't you think stockholders are benefitting too? It's the COMPANIES fault some are not yet cashing out? Maybe those who are not cashing out are hoping for even BETTER returns?

Posted by: JakeD | December 19, 2007 7:33 PM | Report abuse

Not Here!

Even the Stock Holders have not cashed in yet. Stocks still soaring!

See, once upon a time, Wells were being drilled, Refineries built, Pipelines developed...

In this "BUSHwacked" Economy, the oil Company Execs have come to find they are making way more by NOT having enough Crude, Refining capacity, or functioning Pipelines.

"Ohhh, DARN! That Major pipeline out of Canada caught Fire! Now we are just going to have to suffer prices rising some more!

Ohhh Drat!

Could someone get OUR Congressional Stooges to subsidize our profits!"

On this one, Bushie should FRY! Never mind Iraq!

Posted by: rat-the | December 19, 2007 7:11 PM | Report abuse

rat:

If the OIL COMPANIES are not putting cash back into our communities, where do you think the profits are going?

Posted by: JakeD | December 19, 2007 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Ohhh Ho-Ho-Ho!

Wake up call.

There are many of us who are currently suffering BIG TIME!

And, it is across the Board!

See, all of our Christmas Spirit is sitting in some Oil Company's Account somewhere!

Seems while we are competing against a hostile Employment Market for 1970's Wages, Rent and Gas are living in the 2000's!-as in a Month!

Look around. I cannot speak for everyone in this Country. But here, in Austin Texas, in a central Community of Million Dollar Homes, 8 out of 10 Homes do NOT have Lights!

Entire Blocks, without Christmas Lights!

Half of the one's with Lights, are Minimal!

Again, just LOOK!

Fannie May does not need Liquid assets. Me, and many Small Businesspeople just like me DO!

Hint-The Oil Companies are NOT putting our Cash BACK into our communities, and our wages have not risen to the challenge!
Worse, the impending reccession, is going to make for fewer jobs, and even lower wages!

To all Reps who have abandoned the people of this country for Special Interests-

Know that Santa knows who you are!

And Saint Nick, knows his Boss!

And His Boss, is getting the List!

Posted by: rat-the | December 19, 2007 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Interesting word choice: "Giuliani dresses up" -- and you guys were upset about Kerrey correctly noting Obama attended a madrassa when he was a kid, right?

Posted by: JakeD | December 19, 2007 6:23 PM | Report abuse

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