McCain goes positive, maybe

After weeks in which his campaign ran only negative ads, McCain releases an extended positive spot -- the question is how much it'll really air.

By Alex Koppelman
Published October 16, 2008 2:45PM (EDT)

In recent weeks, people who track such things have reported that John McCain's campaign has been buying airtime exclusively for negative or contrast advertising. That came back to bite McCain Wednesday night, when Barack Obama raised the issue at the final debate between the two men.

Thursday morning, though, McCain came out with a new, positive ad in which the Republican nominee speaks directly to the camera not to attack his opponent but to explain what he'd do as president.

Of course, just because the McCain camp has released this positive ad doesn't mean it'll actually spend much -- if anything -- on running it. The fact that it runs for a full minute rather than the standard 30 seconds doesn't bode well for the spot's chances of making it into heavy rotation. The campaign's nonspecific statement that the ad "will be televised nationally" doesn't inspire much confidence either.

At this point, it may be too late anyway. A recent CBS News/New York Times poll asked respondents what they thought each of the two candidates was doing more often: "explaining what he would do" or "attacking the other candidate." Only 31 percent of registered voters chose the former option for McCain; 61 percent said he spent more time on the attack. By contrast, 63 percent said Obama was spending more time explaining what he'd do if elected.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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2008 Elections John Mccain R-ariz.