John McCain's campaign has released a new television ad, "Celeb." It suggests that while Barack Obama may be "the biggest celebrity in the world," he isn't ready to lead.
In its imagery, the spot lumps Obama in with Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. It opens with a shot of Obama's speech in Berlin in front of more than 200,000 people, then cuts to flashbulbs and video of the two women.
The McCain camp says the ad will air on national cable and in Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, northern Virginia, and Wisconsin. There is no word on how many times the spot will run. As the New York Times points out today, a recent McCain spot only ran as a commercial about a dozen times but got extensive play thanks to media coverage.
"He's the biggest celebrity in the world – but is he ready to lead?," an announcer says in the spot. "With gas prices soaring, Barack Obama says no to offshore drilling, and says he'll raise taxes on electricity. Higher taxes, more foreign oil, that's the real Obama."
UPDATE: In a noon conference call, McCain campaign manager Rick Davis discussed the ad for the benefit of reporters. He suggested that the Obama campaign "is focused on an enormous image of celebrity status," and said the point of the ad is to spotlight the fact that Obama's image owes "more to the development of an international celebrity status than it does to a traditional campaign for president."
"We have images of other celebrities that demonstrate that the focus of the Obama campaign has been as much to create that celebrity status of his as it is to discuss those hard issues that the American public is forced to debate during the course of this campaign," Davis said.
"I'd love to think that John McCain was a big international celebrity, but he's not," Davis added. He contrasted McCain's conduct on his international trips with Obama's conduct on his recent international swing. "We see [McCain] more as a global leader than a global celebrity," Davis said.
"The focus on media, the focus on events and activities, is much more something you would expect from someone releasing a new movie than running for president," Davis said of Obama's trip abroad.
Steve Schmidt, McCain's chief strategist, added that "it's beyond dispute that he has become the biggest celebrity in the world."
He continued: "...the question that we are posing to the American people is this: Is he ready to lead yet?"
Davis said the campaign chose Spears and Hilton because the campaign was seeking "the top three international celebrities in the world."
"Britney and Paris came in second and third," he said.
SECOND UPDATE: Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor responds to the ad: "On a day when major news organizations across the country are taking Senator McCain to task for a steady stream of false, negative attacks, his campaign has launched yet another. Or, as some might say, 'Oops! He did it again.'"
Vietor added: "Our dependence on foreign oil is one of the greatest challenges we face. In this election the American people have a real choice -- between Obama's plan to provide tax rebates to American families while creating a renewable energy economy in America that frees us from our dependence on foreign oil, and Senator McCain's plan to continue the same failed energy policies by handing out nearly $4 billion in tax breaks to oil companies while investing almost nothing in the new energy sources that represent our future."
THIRD UPDATE: CBS News' Allison O'Keefe reports that Obama was asked about the ad while campaigning in Missouri today. The Democrat initially brushed off questions about the spot, saying he doesn't pay attention to his opponents ads. But he eventually did address the ad.
"I do notice he doesn't seem to have anything to say very positive about himself. He seems to only be talking about me," Obama said.
"You need to ask John McCain what he's for and not just what he's against," Obama added.
FOURTH UPDATE: CBS News chief political consultant Marc Ambinder reports that former McCain strategist John Weaver has called the spot "childish."
"John's been a celebrity ever since he was shot down," Weaver said.
He added: "There is legitimate mockery of a political campaign now, and it isn't at Obama's. For McCain's sake, this tomfoolery needs to stop."
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