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McCain Tells 'Tale of Two Mitts'

By Juliet Eilperin
ORLANDO -- Sen. John McCain has launched a series of negative radio and web ads against former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, hoping to convince Florida voters headed to the polls tomorrow that his chief opponent is both unelectable and unreliable when it comes to taking conservative policy stands.

Senior aide Mark Salter estimated McCain has devoted at least $250,000 to radio advertising, adding that some of it is directly aimed at questioning Romney's credibility. "If they're going to attack us, we'll push back, so if we have a little spot roughing them up, too bad."

The radio ad, which is playing in Orlando and other areas, features an announcer who mocks Romney's economic record as governor.

"They say Mitt Romney likes numbers. His campaign says he likes to look at data," the announce intones. "Well here are some numbers that should scare every Florida Republican. Four hundred million dollars. That's how much over budget the Romney health care debacle costs taxpayers in Massachusetts. Seven hundred million. A tax increase Romney stuck to the people of Massachusetts. Twenty billion dollars - that's what Romney promised Detroit, to bail out the auto industry on the back of taxpayers."

"And here is the number that should scare Florida Republicans most," the announcer concludes. "Sixteen points. The Wall Street Journal says Hillary Clinton beats Mitt Romney by 16 points. The bottom line: Mitt Romney loses to Hillary Clinton. Republicans lose. We can't afford Mitt Romney. John McCain. He's the one Republican who can beat Hillary Clinton."

But McCain reserved his harshest attacks for an online, one-minute ad titled, "A Tale of Two Mitts," which describes Romney's policy reversals as a performance worthy of "Masterpiece Theatre." On the issue of abortion, it features clips of Romney from both a 1994 Senate debate and a 2002 gubernatorial debate, in which he says, respectively, "I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country," and "I will preserve and protect a woman's right to choose, and am devoted and dedicated to honoring my word in that regard."

Then, it contrasts that with his current, avowed opposition to abortion. After repeating the same technique to highlight Romney's changing stance on gun rights and his party affiliation, the announcer concludes, "Mitt Romney's Flip-Flops Truly Are Masterpieces."

Romney spokesman Kevin Madden decried the ads. "This is the McCain way. Senator McCain always sinks to a lower level and offers distortions and flailing attacks against his opponents when a race is close," he wrote in an e-mail. "If you ever need proof that [McCain is a] Washington insider with the wrong record on Republican issues is threatened by the new ideas and strong record of Governor Romney, now you have it."

By Washington Post editors  |  January 28, 2008; 1:41 PM ET
Categories:  Ad Watch , John McCain  
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