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Mccain Turns Contempt Into An Ad Strategy

Mike does a great job in his terrific Mark Salter profile of capturing the McCain campaign's general contempt for Obama and his adoring throngs.

In a February speech drafted by Salter, McCain cracked that he did not harbor the "presumption that I am blessed with such personal greatness that history has anointed me to save my country in its hour of need"--clearly a taunt aimed at Obama. Salter recently told The Boston Globe that Obama's campaign is based around a "messianic complex." "Yeah, I think politics have changed," Salter said to me, referring to Obama's campaign. "The politics are: 'Elect me!'"

And today's NYT article on McCain's difficulties attracting attention while Obama tours the world featured another nice example:

“There is nothing you can do about it,” said an acerbic Mark Salter, one of Mr. McCain’s closest advisers, while standing at the back of a modest crowd assembled to hear Mr. McCain speak at a picnic in South Portland, Me. “ ‘The One’ went to Europe and homage must be paid.”

But, while it was easy to see how this contempt might manifest itself in gripes to reporters, or even speeches by the candidate, I didn't think the McCain campaign would be able to channel it into an advertisement. Until now, that is. Check out this ad that the McCain campaign released yesterday:

Yes, it's ostensibly an attack--a very misleading attack--on Obama for high gas prices. But note the strange buzz in the background at the beginning of the ad that gradually resolves into a chant of "Obama! Obama!" I think the ad is as much about Obama's devoted supporters (creepily devoted in the McCain campaign's telling) as it is about energy policy. Republicans have become expert at taking an opponent's strength and turning it into a weakness--from Al Gore's wonkery to John Kerry's war record. And now it looks as if they're going to try to do the same thing with Obama and his popularity. At this rate, I wouldn't be surprised if both campaigns ran ads featuring footage from Obama's convention speech in front of 75,000 people in Denver.

--Jason Zengerle