Carolina On McCain's Mind

The CBS News Political Unit is tracking the political commercials of the presidential hopefuls. Jane Ruvelson analyzes the latest effort of Republican John McCain.


The Ad: On Monday, the McCain campaign launched its third television ad -- Duty, Honor, Country -- which will run in South Carolina along with a new radio spot. The 30-second TV commercial will air for several weeks on local television stations.

Audio: Congressman Lindsey Graham: "In Vietnam, John McCain and his fellow prisoners of war showed us what honor really means -- a value we respect in South Carolina. He's stood up for our families with a 17-year pro-life voting record and has voted to take pornography off the Internet. John McCain will bring honor back to the Oval Office. He's the conservative who will stop Bill Clinton's betrayal of our military and say no to the big-money special interests. Duty, honor, country. That's why I'm supporting John McCain for president.

Visual: Duty, Honor, Country opens with grainy footage of McCain's 1973 return from a Vietnamese POW camp, and then moves immediately to the present, with shots of him campaigning, shaking hands and speaking to a crowd. Next, over a family picnic scene, the screen reads "John McCain. 17-Year Pro-Life Voting Record."

After a close-up on hands typing and a little girl gazing at a computer monitor, the screen reads "John McCain. Cleaning up Internet." The viewer then sees McCain giving a speech in front of a military submarine, flanked by his family; the screen reads "Restore Honor to Oval Office." A row of soldiers salutes; the screen reads "Will Stop Clinton's Betrayal of Our Military." On top of a view of the U.S. Capitol, the screen reads "John McCain. No to Big Money Special Interests." Finally, the ad cuts to Graham, who addresses the camera, standing before a flag.

Fact Check: No inaccuracies.

The Strategy: South Carolina and its second-in-the-nation February 19th primary are crucial to McCain's success. If he wins New Hampshire (McCain has led by up to nine points there recently), he'll need a South Carolina victory to keep momentum. Thus far, McCain has made 20 campaign swings through the state and spent, according to his competitors, over $800,000 on advertising. The candidate's military heroism will help him with South Carolina's sizeable veteran population but he still needs to win over those who haven't forgiven him for his 1997 anti-tobacco legislation, and some staunch pro-lifers, who've expressed concern about his resolve on the issue.

Despite a McCain strategist's comment that "We're not running an endorsement campaign," Duty, Honor, Country is essentially an endorsement commercial. Considered a rising star of the Republican Party, Rep. Graham's suport for McCain's abortion and campaign finance reform record may be the campaigns attempt to assuage concerns of the far right on these issues. Graham tries to further establish McCain's conservative credentials by contrasting him not with Republican front-runner Bush, but with President Clinton. In doing so, the campaign elevates McCain (at Clinton's expense) and keeps its promise to uphold Ronald Reagan's Eleventh Commandment: "Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican."