Romney Harnesses Anti-McCain Voices
Updated: 3:45 p.m.
By Howard Kurtz
Mitt Romney unveiled an ad today in which New Hampshire residents start out by saying nice things about John McCain. But that doesn't last long.
After two people praise the Arizonan as a patriot with an outstanding war record--giving the casual viewer the impression that this is a pro-McCain ad--they and others rip his Senate record.
"Wrong on tax cuts," says Gene Bois. "Supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants, taking jobs away from Americans," says Ray Brun. "He wrote the amnesty bill that America rejected," says Collett Hill. "He's had his chance in Washington to make things better," says Marie Paling.
Romney spokesman Kevin Madden acknowledged that these are not person-on-the-street interviews, as the style suggests, but carefully selected Romney supporters, including one leading a Women for Romney group.
McCain spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker dismissed the spot as "yet another false, negative and angry attack from Mitt Romney. Clearly the Romney campaign is nervous, because they know that a leadership and stature gap exists between Mitt Romney and John McCain--and hiding behind surrogates to do their dirty work won't do anything to change that fact."
Said Madden: "It's an accurate picture of New Hampshire Republicans talking about issues in their own words. We agree with New Hampshire residents that John McCain has very troubling positions on issues like taxes and immigration."
McCain, meanwhile, launched a new commercial in which he invokes his 2000 triumph in the Granite State. "Eight years ago, New Hampshire stunned the political world," he says before a giant American flag. "You turned convention on its head because you didn't care what the experts or the media said. My friends, it's a different time, but it's the same place. You haven't changed and neither have I. But the issues are tougher and the times more dangerous. I've learned a lot in eight years. And I feel better prepared than ever to lead this country."
The essence of McCain's pitch--tailored to the state's contrarian nature--is that he remains an underdog and needs help to defy the media establishment that wrote him off months ago.
McCain, also introduced a new commercial in Michigan in which he says "I've made a lot of people angry. I upset corrupt lobbyists and special interests when I passed campaign finance reform. I made the Pentagon angry when I took on Rumsfeld and said we needed a different strategy in Iraq. I angered the big spenders in Congress by opposing their pork projects and calling for ethics reform."
The ad tries to transform questions about McCain's temperament, and neutralize his image as a Washington insider, by depicting him as a lonely crusader against the powers that be.
Posted at 2:32 PM ET on Jan 3, 2008
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