Ben Smith reported yesterday at Politico that Barack Obama's campaign is running radio ads in at least seven states about John McCain's stand on abortion.
I heard this ad in the car yesterday and this morning on two Des Moines-area radio stations: the oldies station KIOA and LITE 104.1. LITE heavily skews toward female listeners. I don't know about the gender breakdown of KIOA listeners, but that station generally appeals to an older audience, many of whom would remember when abortion was illegal.
Smith published the script:
OBAMA: I'm Barack Obama, candidate for president, and I approved this message.
VAL BARON: As a nurse practitioner with Planned Parenthood, I know abortion is one of the most difficult decisions a woman will ever make. I'm Val Baron. Let me tell you: If Roe v Wade is overturned, the lives and health of women will be put at risk. That's why this election is so important. John McCain's out of touch with women today. McCain wants to take away our right to choose. That's what women need to understand. That's how high the stakes are.
ANNCR: As president, John McCain will make abortion illegal. McCain says quote, "I do not support Roe v. Wade. It should be overturned." And listen to McCain's answer on Meet the Press:
RUSSERT: "A constitutional amendment to ban all abortions. You're for that?"
McCAIN: "Yes, sir."
VAL BARON: We can't let John McCain take away our right to choose. We can't let him take us back.
ANNCR: Paid for by Obama for America.
Yesterday I heard a shorter version of this ad, which is identical except that it does not have the Planned Parenthood nurse practitioner speaking at the beginning. Today I have only heard the longer version.
A few points worth noting about this ad:
It does not mention Sarah Palin or the fact that McCain picked an anti-choice running mate. The entire focus is on McCain's record on abortion. Smith reports the ad was cut before McCain selected Palin, and I think it's wise they did not revise to include anything about her. Keep the focus on McCain, who is not at all moderate on this issue.
Including the undated audio clip with Russert and McCain is effective, in my opinion. That is more memorable than anything a voice-over could say about McCain's position on abortion.
I prefer the long version of the ad, because I think it's powerful to have a nurse say abortion is a difficult decision for women. The anti-choice forces try to make it sound as if pro-choice people celebrate or even encourage "abortion on demand." However, most Americans understand that whatever their own views about the issue, abortion is not something women take lightly. Complicated personal circumstances lead to the decision.
These ads mark a major shift in strategy for the Obama campaign. Up to now, the campaign has been emphasizing economic issues rather than abortion at its women's outreach events. Click the link to read about the Obama women's event I attended a few weeks ago, during which Roe v Wade was only mentioned in passing.
Although Democratic candidates have not often made abortion the focus of paid advertising, I think this is a smart ad. Way too many women wrongly believe McCain is pro-choice. Even my stepmother, who is well-informed politically, thought that.
Now that McCain has played his hand and picked a running mate who appeals to evangelicals seeking to overturn Roe v. Wade, it's the right time to educate pro-choice women about McCain's true record on the issue.
The potential downside is that these ads will increase McCain's support among anti-choice voters. Although McCain scores zero on Progressive Punch's rankings on abortion as well as a perfectly anti-choice zero on Planned Parenthood's scorecard, many evangelical conservatives believe McCain does not have a pro-life voting record.
Incredibly, some figures on the Christian right believe McCain has a pro-abortion voting record (see here for more details on that perspective).
This ad makes crystal clear that McCain would try to make abortion illegal if elected president.
On the other hand, McCain has presumably already energized anti-choice voters by selecting Palin for vice-president. Also, I have yet to see any poll showing that a majority of Americans would like to see abortion criminalized.
Please put up a comment if you have heard these ads, with details about when and what kind of radio station aired them.
UPDATE: A Bleeding Heartland user saw Cindy McCain tell Katie Couric on CBS News tonight
that she supports Roe v Wade. This echoes the tactic they used in previous elections, when it was made known that Laura Bush also would not like Roe v Wade to be overturned. We cannot allow this deception to give pro-choice voters a false sense of security. No matter what Laura Bush thinks, George W. Bush to my knowledge has not appointed any judges who support Roe v Wade.