Playing the "follow the opponent with TV ads" game, the Kerry-Edwards campaign goes on the air in Pennsylvania today with two new spots. President Bush attends rallies in Johnstown and Colmar, and the Kerry spots are called — predictably — "Johnstown" and "Philadelphia."
"Philadelphia" focuses on Medicare, and "Johnstown" talks about health care and wages. Both are 30-second spots, and they're part of the $50 million ad buy.
Narrator: Four years ago, George Bush came to Philadelphia promising to strengthen "Medicare for the greatest generation." Four years later, Bush imposes the largest Medicare increase in history. Now Bush is back, but around here we remember Bush's broken promises. It's time for a new direction. John Kerry — a real plan to strengthen Medicare and lower healthcare costs. John Kerry — stronger at home, respected in the world.
John Kerry:I'm John Kerry and I approved this message.
Narrator: In 2000 George Bush never bothered to come to Johnstown. Now he's here promising to take the side of working families. But we know what matters — facts, not promises. Healthcare costs are skyrocketing. And family wages are down $1500. It's time for a new direction. John Kerry — a real plan to cut middle class taxes and reduce health care costs. John Kerry -stronger at home, respected in the world.
John Kerry: I'm John Kerry and I approved this message.
We tease Al Hunt for being (perhaps) ironically self-referential sometimes (e.g., "Senator Kerry has made several much-needed, if belated, changes . . . Understandably, this hasn't quelled Democratic angst among those who wonder if Senator Kerry has blown it . . . ") but the veteran journalist has some of the best sources in the business and has a better read for elite Democratic CW than just about anyone else.
Today, he writes:
"Sen. Kerry offered a hard-hitting critique of the failed Iraq policy yesterday. But he soon has to do a better job explaining what he would do to get out of the quagmire; getting more help from allies isn't sufficient. A major debate among his advisers is whether he ought to set a precise timetable, pledge that we will guard the borders for a reasonable period but that within a few years Iraq has to be self-sufficient. Some leading advisers say timetables are irresponsible — an invitation, in the words of one, for "unmitigated hell" from the insurgents — but that probably is where American policy is headed no matter who wins the election. There simply isn't public support for an open-ended commitment."
"Mr. Kerry is not going to win the commander-in-chief issues; challengers never do. But he needs to temper some of the patently phony Bush-Cheney campaign claims before moving on to issues of his choice."
"Then, barring unforeseen events, it's hard to see how voters won't gravitate more to the economy and jobs' concerns by October. The Bush administration tries to obfuscate a dreadful record — blaming it on 9/11 — or just claims disappointing news is good news, witness the bragging about last month's mediocre unemployment record."