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Posted at 08:15 AM ET, 06/15/2010

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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 10/14/2008

New JFK Tapes Revealed

Kudos to NBC Nightly News for devoting significant time Monday night to new audio tapes from a Jan. 5, 1960 conversation with then-Sen. John F. Kennedy.

Brian Williams and NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss shared some clips on the television broadcast. Among other things, Kennedy discusses a recent vacation to Jamaica, how it helped him reconnect with daughter Caroline, and he admits he's not much of a natural politician.

A web-only edition has been posted on the NBC Nightly News Web site. Williams tells viewers that the audio recording was made by journalists Ben Bradlee and Jim Cannon and as Williams notes, "The very sharp-eared among us listeners can hear Sen. Kennedy's cigar cutter."

Among other things, Kennedy admits he first ran for Congress because, "it was a combination of being really at loose ends at the end of the war, of being reluctant to begin law school again, of having this rather political tradition which made it somewhat easier for me."

Pretty cool.

-- Ed O'Keefe

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Posted at 11:25 AM ET, 10/ 9/2008

Campaign 2010 Has Begun!

Maybe it's time to rename the blog Channel 2010!

Only 26 days remain until Election Day 2008, but there are 754 days until Election Day 2010 (if my math is correct). That means it's time for gubernatorial, Senate and some House candidates to start thinking about the next election cycle, which starts Nov. 5, 2008. (Don't believe me? Chris Cillizza has already whipped up a Friday Line on 2010 Governors races.)

Gov. David Paterson (D-N.Y.) has already started. He announced his bid for a full term on Tuesday, launched a new Web site and the campaign has just released a Web-only ad, reminding viewers of March 17, 2008, the day he took over for scandal-scarred Eliot Spitzer.

"Maybe it was when he drew the line on the state budget. When he made the hard choices and tough calls. Got everyone to pull together for the common good. About as uncommon a sight as Albany has ever seen," the video's announcer says.

Later: "Somewhere along the line, David Paterson began to prove that you can be nice, and you can be tough. That if you want to solve problems, you have to acknowledge them. And that if you want to level the playing field, you have to level with us."

Finally: "He didn't just take over that day, he took charge."

It's not yet clear if Paterson will face Democratic competition for the gubernatorial nomination and any potential Republican candidates have yet to publicly state their intentions. New York Republicans I spoke with at the GOP convention last month seemed to suggest the party would wait to see how Paterson handles the economic catastrophe the state faces in the coming years. Declining revenues on Wall Street mean much lower tax revenues for the state, which means big spending cuts on all sorts of programs.

But make no mistake: Campaign 2010 has begun in New York and across the country. To quote the great Al Pacino, "Just when I thought I was out...they pull me back in!"

-- Ed O'Keefe

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Posted at 04:38 PM ET, 10/ 6/2008

Before Character Attacks, a Policy War on the TV

By Ed O'Keefe in The Trail:

New ads released over the weekend by Barack Obama continued a focus on health care, while John McCain's criticized Obama's record on taxes in perhaps the last gasp of the policy-related ad war that has dominated the airwaves in recent weeks.

The McCain campaign has signaled an intention to focus its ads going forward on raising questions about Obama's character.

The Obama camp now has a suite of ads related to health care in rotation. "Coin" starts airing Monday in battleground states and compares Obama's plan to McCain's:

"Barack Obama would require insurance companies to cover routine treatments, like vaccines and mammograms," the ad says. "John McCain would deregulate the insurance giants, letting them bypass patient protections in your state. Obama would force insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions. McCain would let them continue to do as they please. Isn't your health care too important to be left to chance?"

Another Obama ad on health care calls McCain's plans "a multitrillion dollar tax hike. The largest middle-class tax increase in history."

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Posted at 04:34 PM ET, 10/ 6/2008

McCain Spot Asks: 'Who Is Barack Obama?'

By Howard Kurtz in The Trail:

The Ad: (Narrator:) Who is Barack Obama? He says our troops in Afghanistan are --
(Barack Obama:) "... just air-raiding villages and killing civilians."
(Narrator:) How dishonorable. Congressional liberals voted repeatedly to cut off funding to our active troops. Increasing the risk on their lives. How dangerous. Obama and congressional liberals. Too risky for America.

Analysis: This John McCain ad blatantly distorts Barack Obama's words in an effort to paint him as callous about the role of the U.S. military.

The commercial truncates a comment that Obama made to a voter in New Hampshire in August 2007. According to the Associated Press, the Illinois senator brought up Afghanistan when asked whether he would withdraw troops form Iraq to fight terrorism elsewhere: "We've got to get the job done there, and that requires us to have enough troops so that we're not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous pressure over there." In short, Obama was saying he wanted to avoid just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, not that this was all that American troops were doing. His meaning was the opposite of what is portrayed in this spot. Civilian casualties have been rising in Afghanistan this year, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates last month apologized for U.S. airstrikes that have killed civilians.

Obama voted against Republican legislation to continue an open-ended commitment in Iraq after President Bush vetoed a Democratic bill to link funding to a timetable for withdrawal. He did not intend to cut off funding for American troops any more than McCain did in urging Bush to reject the Democratic measure.

The commercial represents an effort to turn the campaign dialogue from the economy to foreign policy, a stronger issue for the Arizona senator. By having the female narrator begin with the words "Who is Barack Obama?" the ad attempts to reinforce doubts about the Democratic nominee as a lesser known, untested and ultimately risky figure. And by picturing Obama with such congressional leaders as Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank and Charlie Rangel, the McCain campaign makes a more subtle argument for the first time. Because both houses of Congress are considered likely to remain in Democratic hands, the implication is that a vote for Obama would give the party unchecked power, while a McCain White House would act as a brake against liberal Democrats on Capitol Hill.

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Posted at 12:13 PM ET, 10/ 6/2008

Obama Releases 'Keating Economics' Documentary

The Obama campaign has released a 13 minute video called "Keating Economics: John McCain & The Making of a Financial Crisis." The video tells one version of the story of McCain's involvement in the "Keating Five" scandal and helps the Obama campaign make the argument that the Republican candidate played a "central role" in a financial crisis that led to taxpayer-funded government bailouts.

As The Post's Perry Bacon reports, the campaign has also launched KeatingEconomics.com and surrogates will appear on radio and TV to discuss McCain's involvement in the S&L scandal. The senator has apologized for his involvement in the scandal, which ran from the late 1980s into the early 1990s. McCain and Sens. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.), John Glenn (D-Ohio) and Donald Riegle (D-Mich.) faced criticism by the Senate Ethics Committee for aiding Charles Keating, then the chairman of the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association. The "Keating Five" asked federal investigators to not seize the company because it might be insolvent. Keating was eventually convicted of fraud and the company collapsed.

A 35-second preview of the documentary was watched at least 273,000 times since its release early this morning, according to Obama campaign spokesman Hari Sevugan.

-- Ed O'Keefe

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Posted at 02:08 PM ET, 10/ 1/2008

NRA Delivers New Ad in Spanish

By Ed O'Keefe in The Trail:

The latest TV ad from the National Rifle Association invokes the immigration debate by suggesting that Barack Obama voted against a 2004 Illinois bill to provide additional legal protections to individuals defending themselves with firearms against criminals in citizen's homes.

The ad will air in both English and Spanish on broadcast and cable stations in Colorado, New Mexico and Texas through Election Day.

"Families should be able to defend themselves against rapists, drug dealers and other criminals illegally crossing our borders," says Andy Vaquera, who is described in the spot as a retired Texas police officer and NRA member. "But Barack Obama didn't think we should be allowed to use a firearm for self-defense. He even voted to allow the prosecution of people who used firearms to defend their families in their own homes."

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Posted at 02:06 PM ET, 10/ 1/2008

Independent Group Raises McCain Health Issue

By Chris Cillizza in The Fix:

In an attempt to intensify voter doubts about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's readiness for office in advance of Thursday's vice presidential debate, the California Nurses Association has launched an ad raising questions about John McCain's health.

The ad went up in six battleground states -- Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri -- this morning, and will run for two days with a low six-figure buy behind it, according to sources familiar with the spot.

That relatively meager amount of spending means that the ad is meant to be more provocative than persuasive, aimed at driving a discussion -- publicly and privately -- about McCain's health. And, the content is decidedly provocative.

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Posted at 02:05 PM ET, 10/ 1/2008

Enviro Group Expands Wolf-Killing Policy Ad Buy

By Juliet Eilperin in The Trail:

Capitalizing on the success of its hard-hitting ad questioning Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's support for predator control, a national environmental group is expanding its television buy in time for Thursday night's vice presidential debate.

The ad by Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, which focuses on Palin's backing for aerial killing of wolves as well as grizzly and black bears in Alaska, has generated $1 million in contributions for Defenders and spread across the Internet on liberal blogs.

The independent HCD Research and the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion, which has been testing several campaign ads this season, recently concluded it ranks as one of the campaign's most effective ads. The commercial moved viewers -- regardless of their party identification -- slightly toward backing Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, according to a poll of 312 people.

The ad is already airing in Florida, Michigan, Ohio and northern Virgina, will hit the airwaves in Colorado tomorrow and Wisconsin on Friday. It will also air in Missouri, just on Thursday night, during the vice presidential debate.

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Posted at 09:40 AM ET, 10/ 1/2008

Veterans Group Hits Obama on Afghanistan and Iraq

By Ed O'Keefe in The Trail:

Having targeted Sen. Barack Obama's stance on the Iraq war before, the pro-McCain group Vets for Freedom this week begins airing a hard-hitting message accusing the Democratic presidential candidate of focusing more on his campaign than on his Senatorial oversight duties of military operations in Afghanistan. The group will spend $2.2 million to air the ad on cable stations nationwide, and in some California markets.

"Skipped" starts by noting Obama's poor Senate attendance record. It goes on to say he voted against funding military operations in Iraq and that his Senate subcommittee on European Affairs has yet to hold a hearing on military operations in Afghanistan -- familiar lines of attack already used by Republicans during the course of the campaign.

The ad concludes by urging passage of Senate Resolution 636, a resolution "recognizing the strategic success of the troop surge in Iraq and expressing gratitude to the members of the United States Armed Forces who made that success possible." The bill was introduced by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), two prominent supporters of GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain.

"Senator Barack Obama consistently argues the mission in Afghanistan has suffered as a result of the surge in Iraq. This argument is especially disingenuous considering he is the chairman of the committee designated to oversee the mission in Afghanistan, but he has yet to hold a single hearing," said Pete Hegseth, chairman of Vets for Freedom.

Obama has acknowledged his subcommittee has not held hearings on Afghanistan, and while his Senate attendance record is poor, McCain has not voted on any Senate measure in almost six months.

The Obama campaign did not respond to requests for comment about this ad.

Vets for Freedom aired a similar ad in mid-September that compared Obama's comments on Iraq to those of Gen. David Petraeus.

The group's decision to air the message on broadcast stations in solidly Democratic California is unusual, but Hegseth called the state an "untapped media market" with the nation's largest veteran's population. "While others have been running issues ads across the country, no one's really done so in California," he said. "It's an important place if you want to be a part of the debate. You have to be involved in California."

UPDATE 2:19 P.M. ET: In response, the Obama campaign calls the ad a "despicable distortion" of the senator's record.

"By this same measure, Sen. McCain supported cutting off funding for the troops and has been absent from every Armed Services Committee hearing on Afghanistan for the past two years," Obama campaign spokesman Nick Shapiro said. "Obama has been a forceful advocate for our service members."

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Posted at 04:53 PM ET, 09/30/2008

House Republican Ad Exploits Rangel's Ethics Problems

By Chris Cillizza in The Fix:

House Republicans have launched an ad attacking a freshman Wisconsin Democrat over his ties to embattled Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel (N.Y.), the first of a series of attempts to use Rangel's ongoing ethics woes as an anchor around the necks of vulnerable Democratic incumbents.

The ad -- the first from the National Republican Congressional Committee -- hits Rep. Steve Kagen (Wis.) as having "found a friend in corrupt New York City Congressman Charlie Rangel." The evidence? The $16,000 in donations that Kagen took from Rangel, and the alleged quid pro quo that led Kagen to support a $2 million earmark for a "personal office and library" for Rangel. Kagen is facing a rematch against state Rep. John Gard; Kagen beat Gard 51 percent to 49 percent.)

Ken Spain, a spokesman for the NRCC, predicted there would be many more ads tying targeted Democratic incumbents to Rangel in the final five weeks before the election. "Whether it is their support for irresponsible economic policies, opposition to drilling, or stashing thousands in campaign donations from Charlie Rangel, we plan to hold Democrats accountable in the run-up to Election Day," said Spain.

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