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McCain's First General Election Ad

Since Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) formally secured the Democratic nomination for president on Tuesday night, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) has been doing everything he can to stay on offense in the general election.

From his scathing speech denouncing Obama for representing the wrong kind of change to his proposal for the two to meet in 10 townhalls as part of the general election campaign, McCain has been a whirling dervish of energy over the past 72 hours.

The latest sign of the increased activity of his campaign is a new ad running in 10 battleground states -- Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin -- in which McCain seeks to insulate himself from charges that he is simply parroting the Bush Administration's policies when it comes to the war in Iraq.

Here's the ad:

One word sums up the ad: Serious.

McCain must convince voters that while they may not agree with him on Iraq, he has had a lifetime of experience to make this most critical of judgments. The ad relies heavily on McCain's own life story -- including his imprisonment in a North Vietnam POW camp for five years -- to make clear that McCain does not take lightly the decision about the way forward in Iraq.

For McCain to win in the fall, he has to -- at least -- neutralize the war in Iraq as an issue against him. Being painted as forwarding a policy in the region that most Americans believe isn't working (and won't work) is a recipe for electoral defeat.

Democrats are working feverishly to make sure McCain is answerable for the war. "Senator McCain says he hates war, but he's the one who talked about staying in Iraq for 100 years," reads a statement issued by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (Nev.) office. " Senator McCain should match his words with action. If he truly hates war, he should lay out his plan to get American troops out of Iraq quickly and safely."

Aside from the ad's contents, the states in which the ad is running provide the first real insight into where McCain believes the general election campaign will be won or lost.

Of the ten states the ad is currently airing in, six of them were won by President Bush in 2004: Colorado (Bush 52 percent), Iowa (50 percent), Missouri (53 percent), New Mexico (50 percent), Nevada (50 percent), and (Ohio 51 percent).

That means four -- yes, the Fix can add and subtract -- were states won by Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry: Michigan (51 percent), Minnesota (51 percent), Pennsylvania (51 percent) and Wisconsin (50 percent).

That group of states is a largely traditional battleground based on the results of the 2000 and 2004 election -- although the absence of Florida (THE battleground in 2000) is intriguing.

One of the major unanswered questions moving forward is whether the election will be fought on a traditional map (as McCain clearly believes it will) or whether Obama has the capacity to grow the playing field into places like North Carolina, Montana and Georgia among others.

By Chris Cillizza  |  June 6, 2008; 1:30 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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