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Campaign ads spread tidings along with political messages

Times Staff Writer

It’s beginning to look a lot like . . . politics as usual. In the last two days, at least five presidential contenders have put out ads or video messages celebrating Christmas. All feature lovely trees with ornaments aglow. Simple messages of holiday cheer? Get your head out of the eggnog.

Some -- like Mike Huckabee and Barack Obama -- know that the electorate in the early voting states are starting to tire of the barrage of mail, TV ads and radio spots. These candidates make a show of steering clear of overt politics. Others, like Hillary Rodham Clinton and Rudolph W. Giuliani (whose first name must have made some of his holidays pretty miserable as a kid) can’t help themselves: Masked with humor, their holiday moments are as partisan as ever. Everyone, though, is pushing a point.

The Obamas, who belong to the United Church of Christ in Chicago, are featured with their two little girls in a homey scenario, with a fire blazing and stockings hung from the mantle. “In this holiday season,” says Obama, “we are reminded that the things that unite us as a people are more powerful and enduring than anything that sets us apart.” Obama is the only candidate to appear with his family in the new ads.

Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist minister, makes no pretense about his intended audience: evangelical Christians.

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Wearing a cuddly red sweater, Huckabee says in a soothing voice, “Are you about worn out at all the television commercials we’ve been seeing -- mostly about politics? I don’t blame you. . . . Just remember what really matters is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and being with friends and family.”

Hovering behind him, next to the tree, is what seems to be display shelves or a French-pane window creating a cross shape.

The image prompted the Drudge Report website to post a story hinting that the “hovering cross” was some sort of subliminal appeal.

Huckabee took to the airwaves Wednesday to say that the cross image was “nothing more than a bookshelf.”

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Ron Paul took it more seriously. In a comment to a reporter, he said, “It reminds me of what Sinclair Lewis once said: ‘When fascism comes to this country, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross.’ ”

John Edwards, who is reclaiming his post as the populist he was before unleashing his inner attack dog on Clinton, makes a plea for America to remember the impoverished and the homeless. “This is the season of miracles, of faith and love. . . . We see you, we hear you, and we will speak for you.”

Clinton, who still is at pains to persuade Democrats she’s warm and personable, resorts to humor (as she did last fall in her “Sopranos” take-off).

Over the strains of the cheery “Carols of the Bells” she is shown cutting wrapping paper and labeling gifts: “Universal Health Care,” “Bring Troops Home” and “Middle Class Tax Breaks.”

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“Now where did I put universal pre-K?” she asks. “Ah, there it is!”

Holiday, schmoliday. The Republican war room went to work. “The best holiday gift we can give hardworking families is a complete rejection of Senator Clinton’s failed, liberal policies,” said Republican National Committee spokesman Danny Diaz in a mass e-mail.

Meanwhile, Giuliani says in his new ad, “There are many things I wish for this holiday season: I wish for peace with strength. Secure borders. A government that spends less than it takes in. Lower taxes. . . . And I really hope that all of the presidential candidates can just get along.”

At that point, Santa chimes in: “Ho, ho, ho. I was with you right up until that last one.”

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Lump of coal, anyone?

--

robin.abcarian@latimes.com


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