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McCain Cries Foul

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


The Ad: The McCain campaign has released its most controversial ad to date, Promises, Promises, a 30-second spot running in New Hampshire. It's a direct response to an ad run by the Bush campaign over the last week that McCain charges is negative and mischaracterizes his tax plan.

Bush has stood by his ad and refused to take it off the air unless McCain proved it false. But the Bush ad has come down anyway. According to the Bush campaign, it was slated to run for only a few days.

Audio: McCain: "I guess it was bound to happen. Now my opponent has started the political attacks after promising he wouldn't. Mr. Bush's attacks are wrong. My plan cuts taxes, secures Social Security and pays down the debt. There is no tax increase. When I began this campaign I promised you something better, that I wouldn't engage in attack politics. I'm keeping my pledge. If you agree with my conservative reform agenda, I'd appreciate your vote."

Visual: McCain addresses the camera, seated in a softly lit hotel suite for the entirety of the spot. The words "Cuts Taxes," "Secures Social Security," and "Pays Down the Debt," appear as he explains his tax plan.

Fact Check: No inaccuracies, though Bush contends that he has not "attacked," but merely "compared" and "analyzed," McCain's tax plan.

The Strategy: McCain has skipped Iowa and focused much of his early attention on tax-conscious New Hampshire. Promises, Promises advances McCain's cause in two ways: It defends his tax plan and presents Bush as a candidate willing to break his word and go negative.

McCain and Bush have gone back and forth on the issue of taxes since the release of McCain's tax plan on January 11th. Since then, Bush has criticized it for not providing enough tax relief and for leaving too much money in the hands of Washington politicians. Bush has also been especially critical of one specific element of the McCain tax plan that Bush contends imposes a $40 billion tax increase on employee benefits.

Meanwhile, McCain has argued that Bush's plan, released in the beginning of December, is too big and "misplaced." McCain asserts the Bush plan fails to protect Social Security or pay down the national debt, and that it provides too large a portion of its tax relief to America's wealthiest. Not surprisingly, both candidates have flatly denied the other's charges and complained that their opponent had broken the "no negative campaigning" pledge they shook hands on back in early January.

Since the release and widespread comparison of the two plans, a Time Magazine/CNN poll found tat 63 percent of Republicans nationwide favor a smaller tax cut, with a larger amount spent to shore up Social Security and reduce the federal debt. That sounds more like McCain's plan.

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