Pulling the plug?

by Henry Farrell on October 22, 2008

From a short “NYT piece”:http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/21/mccains-camp-shaves-its-ad-targets/ on the shrinking McCain advertising budget in swing states.

But the McCain campaign also needs the extra money to keep up with its current plans, due to a quiet decision it has made that most voters will hardly notice. Until now, the campaign has been teaming up with the Republican National Committee to jointly produce a large percentage of its advertisements. By sharing the costs down the middle, Team McCain has been able to basically double the amount of advertisements it can run for its money. This is all legal: campaigns are allowed to split the costs of their ads with their affiliated parties. But there’s a catch: The spots must serve not only their campaigns but also the collective agendas of their congressional colleagues.

Such advertisements – known in the political business as “hybrids” – tend to garble a presidential candidate’s message. So, for instance, a spot attacking Mr. Obama also has included references to “liberals in Congress’’ and figures like Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate majority leader, who is not as well known to everyday voters.

The campaign has started to phase out those ads in these final days, deciding to stick to advertisements it can devote fully to Mr. McCain’s campaign message. That will greatly disadvantage Mr. McCain as he struggles to keep up with the far better funded Mr. Obama. But Mr. McCain’s aides have clearly decided a trade of volume for greater clarity is worth it.

Now this is one possible interpretation of what is going on. But while mixed messages are a significant problem, I (as an admitted naif on these issues) would have thought that getting completely swamped by your opponent’s advertising is a rather bigger one. Isn’t a more plausible interpretation of this decision that the RNC are finally “pulling the plug”:https://crookedtimber.org/2008/10/10/a-bit-of-horserace-commentary/ on their subsidization of the McCain campaign, and the McCain folks are trying to put the best face that they can on it?



dr. doctrine 10.22.08 at 5:33 am

McSpinalTap is hittin’ the county fair circuit; that’s where real america does politicking.


Martin Wisse 10.22.08 at 9:23 am

Expect more ads for embattled senators and the like from the RNC shortly. They may very well have written off McCain and decided to limit their losses in Congress.


Lad Litter 10.22.08 at 9:27 am

Not sure if this correct or not but in ’64 the Goklwater campaign sloganized their message with “In your heart, you know he’s right” The Democrats replied with “In your guts, you know he’s nuts.” I’ll check and get back to you, hoping all the while that it’s true.


Steve LaBonne 10.22.08 at 12:15 pm

Makes sense to me, too. McInsane is a lost cause, but I’m sure the RNC desperately wants to avoid the humiliation of having, for instance, Mitch McConnell go down. So I know where I’d be putting MY money if I were them.


Tom 10.22.08 at 1:14 pm

Maybe the House and Senate candidates don’t want to be associated with McCain or the national party.


SamChevre 10.22.08 at 1:16 pm

Just for reference, here in very red Southern VA I’ve heard 2 Obama ads, and no McCain ads, on the local country music station. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Democratic ad for even a statewide candidate before.


Barry 10.22.08 at 1:17 pm

Not only that, but the GOP desperately needs the Senatorial fillibuster. With that, they can simultaneously claim that ‘Democrats control the government’, while blocking a large amount of action, and forcing other actions to be bent more towards their disliking (/away from their disliking).

That’s a good defensive position, and one which they exploited quite successfully in 1993-4. In a time of econmic pain, please note.


HH 10.22.08 at 1:55 pm

The media have an interest in making this look like a suspenseful contest, but the online betting parlors have effectively closed their books. It is over. What begins now is clearing the wreckage of eight years of government by idiots and completing the spin-off of the US Treasury from Goldman Sachs.


Uncle Kvetch 10.22.08 at 4:22 pm

here in very red Southern VA

I thought the correct appellations were now “Real Virginia” or “Non-Marxist Virginia,” SC.



SamChevre 10.22.08 at 5:58 pm

Well, this is part of “Real Virginia”–but some parts of “Real Virginia” are very strongly Democrat-leaning. (Charlottesville, Petersburg). The “not ‘Real Virginia'” comments tend to be aimed at NoVA–the DC suburbs–which is very unlike the rest of Virginia.


PHB 10.24.08 at 1:31 am

McCain is also planning not to attend his own ‘victory party’. Guess he realizes that it is likely to be more of a concession speech.

I think folk are making a mistake in considering 60 seats as some sort of binary thing. The fact is that a party that controls the White House can pretty much get by with a simple majority in the Senate and win most of what it wants. The Democrats could in theory have filibustered plenty in 2004-2006, but the GOP would have simply rolled all their bills into one and sat the filibuster out if it came to that. Applying the same tactics with control of the Senate but not the WH ends in a veto and if you don’t have the votes to rise a filibuster you certainly can’t get an override.

In practice it is highly unlikely that the GOP will return with 41 movement conservative types committed to obstructionism for its own sake and at all costs. If the Democrats win 45-48 seats it will probably be enough to do pretty much everything.

More Democrats in the Senate is still better of course. But only if they are Democrats. Party discipline matters much more than getting to a numerical 60. What this means is that it is much more important to strip Joe Lieberman of his chairmanship than keep him on just to get to 60. Lieberman needs to be made an example of – kick him out of the caucus, strip him of his committee seats and administer the order of the pineapple.

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