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On the Trail: GRADUATING TO FIFTH GRADE

Obama's 'celebrity' counterpunch

August 12, 2008|Maeve Reston

Barack Obama clearly wasn't amused when John McCain's campaign tried to turn his big crowd advantage into a liability -- casting him as the "biggest celebrity in the world" in an ad that interspersed images of the Democratic candidate speaking to thousands in Berlin with paparazzi-style shots of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.

McCain's campaign was trying to persuade voters that Obama wasn't ready for the presidency.

Now, nearly two weeks later, Obama's campaign is offering its counterpunch: a cable TV ad slapping McCain with the less glamorous label of "Washington's biggest celebrity."

The ad shows the Arizona senator gabbing on television with the ladies on "The View" and appearing with actor Steve Carell on "Saturday Night Live."

Their proof of McCain's Washington celebrity: clips showing McCain hugging President Bush as the announcer intones, "As Washington embraced him, John McCain hugged right back."

Then there's a slow-motion shot of McCain walking with a group that the announcer incorrectly identifies as "the lobbyists running his low-road campaign."

(McCain's campaign manager is a former lobbyist, but McCain's companions in the clip are former EBay Chief Executive Meg Whitman and aide Greg Wendt, neither of whom have lobbied, according to a Whitman spokesman and the campaign. The two other men pictured were identified by the campaign as Secret Service agents.)

"A Washington celebrity playing the same old Washington games," the ad concludes.

It's worth remembering that Obama said McCain's celebrity-themed ads and another calling him "The One" were desperate -- the equivalent of "fifth-grade" name-calling.

His new ad suggests that his aides are worried that even fifth-grade strategies may be having some effect in the campaign.

-- Maeve Reston

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