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Obama's On the Air in Iowa

We've been wondering for a while when Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) would start spending some of the piles of money his campaign has collected.

Now, we've got our answer. Obama is set to launch the first two ads of his presidential campaign tomorrow in Iowa, the opening move in what is likely to be an extended effort to introduce the freshman senator to voters in early states.

Both of the ads -- a 30-second and a 60-second spot -- are biographical (watch them both below). They begin in black and white with the words "The Obama Story" on screen before turning to color and cutting to snippets of his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, the speech that almost overnight made him a force in national politics.

The shorter ad aims to bolster Obama's bi-partisan messaging, featuring a Republican state senator named Kirk Dillard (Ill.) praising Obama's "negotiation skills" and "ability to understand both sides."

The longer ad is more strictly biographical, detailing Obama's work as a community organizer, his stand-out years at Harvard Law School and eventual return to community organizing. Laurence Tribe, a legendary professor at Harvard's Law School, says in the ad that Obama's decision to bypass wealth on Wall Street for a job organizing at the community level was "absolutely inspiring."

The Obama campaign released little information about the extent of the ad buy other than to say it is statewide and "low level." Given Obama's outstanding fundraising in the first quarter and the widespread belief he will equal or eclipse it on June 30, he will likely have the financial resources to stay on the air in Iowa all the way through the Jan. 14 caucuses.

The thrust of the ads is intriguing. By using the recurring motif of the "Obama Story" the campaign is making clear to viewers that this is the first in a series of ads designed to let them get to known the candidate better. It gives the ad campaign a sense of cohesion -- that each spot is a continuation of the ad before it. That tactic makes sense, especially if the Obama campaign plans a long advertising campaign. If folks in Iowa are going to be subjected to five to 10 (or more) ads over the next six months, it's nice to send a message at the start that they are all of a piece.

Our other observation is that the message of the 30-second ad ("even Republicans like him") seems more aimed at a general election -- or at least a primary where Independents can vote -- than a closed party caucus as Iowa is set to hold. It's a calculated risk that base voters will respond to a message of bipartisanship rather than a simple show of red meat. It will also be interesting to see how long Obama waits before turning his advertising message to the war in Iraq; his opposition to the conflict from its outset puts him in a strong position with Iowa caucus goers who tend to be quite liberal and strongly opposed to the war,.

Obama is already a major player in the caucuses if recent polls are to be believed. A Mason-Dixon survey done in the middle of this month had Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) at 22 percent followed by former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) at 21 percent and Obama at 18 percent.

You can watch both ads below:

"Carry" (30 seconds)

"Choices" (60 seconds)

By Chris Cillizza  |  June 25, 2007; 6:17 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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