Countering critics’ portrayal of him as an unpatriotic elitist, Barack Obama opened his general-election ad campaign Thursday with a TV spot trumpeting his “love of country” and “values straight from the Kansas heartland.”
The Democratic Party’s likely presidential nominee is running the commercial in a dozen battleground states, but also in six that lean heavily Republican: Montana, North Dakota, Indiana, North Carolina, Georgia and Alaska.
During the Democratic primaries, Obama’s campaign signed up thousands of new voters in those states, which could make at least a couple of them competitive in the general election -- especially if his team succeeds in registering more.
Obama advisors also hope that the candidate’s presumed general-election fundraising edge over likely GOP rival John McCain will help him pick up states that usually vote Republican.
Candidates sometimes advertise early in states that they have little hope of winning as a ploy to force an opponent to spend time and money there defensively, only to retreat late in the race.
Still, “playing in those states shows you that this is being played on the Republicans’ home turf, which is not good news for John McCain,” said Ken Goldstein, a University of Wisconsin political scientist who specializes in campaign advertising. “If we see this sort of buy in September or October, we’ll know the race is over.”
Also notable: Obama isn’t advertising in Minnesota and Oregon, two of the most fiercely contested states in the 2004 race between President Bush and his Democratic challenger, Sen. John F. Kerry. Bush narrowly lost both states, and McCain has made them prime targets for 2008.
Obama’s 60-second ad, narrated by the candidate, is largely biographical, with gentle folk guitar music in the background.
“I was raised by a single mom and my grandparents,” Obama tells viewers. “We didn’t have much money, but they taught me values straight from the Kansas heartland where they grew up. Accountability and self-reliance. Love of country.”
Those values, he says, inspired him to work his way through college, “pass up Wall Street jobs and go to Chicago instead, helping neighborhoods devastated when steel plants closed.”
The ad shows snapshots of Obama’s white mother and her parents but excludes his black Kenyan father, who was largely absent from the candidate’s upbringing in Hawaii and Indonesia.
As for issues, the spot mentions Obama’s support for “welfare to work,” tax cuts for working families and “healthcare for wounded troops.”
Obama media strategist Jim Margolis described the spot as an effort to introduce the Democrat to voters who know little of his life story.
“For a lot of people, this is new information,” Margolis said.
The ad comes after months of efforts by Republicans to raise doubts about Obama’s patriotism.
Among other things, they have questioned why he sometimes did not wear a flag pin on his lapel.
The spot also responds implicitly to attacks by McCain and former Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton for Obama’s remark that some small-town Americans cling to guns and religion out of bitterness over economic hardships.
Obama’s campaign said the ad would also run in New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Missouri and Virginia.