Presidential slugfest hits the airwaves

A few weeks ago I predicted Republican presidential nominee John McCain’s comment about “renegotiating” the Colorado River Compact would show up in paid media ads against him from Democratic rival Barack Obama. My crystal ball didn’t let me down. Yesterday, Obama put up a radio ad featuring the quote, along with a line from Democratic Sen. Ken Salazar about how it’s a “terrible idea.” In my experience, presidential campaigns rarely cut ads specific to just one state. For Obama to put together an ad that will, I expect, only run in very specific parts of this one state … well, welcome to life in the top battleground of 2008.

The radio spot features an actual audio clip of McCain’s inane comment to the Pueblo Chieftain. I had no idea someone had this on tape, but I still thought the quote could cause some major damage in Southern Colorado and the Western Slope. With the audio — pure gold. Platinum, maybe. Possibly bigger than The Beatles.

In any case, McCain desperately tried to backpedal from the comment, especially after his own party’s candidate for U.S. Senate, Bob Schaffer, said the Colorado River Compact would only be renegotiated over his “cold, dead, political carcass.”

While the possibility exists that McCain’s just a lower-basin senator hell-bent on taking all our water, I think it’s more likely he simply had no idea his comment would cause the kind of trouble it did. However, that means McCain doesn’t even have a remedial understanding of one of the most important issues in our state: water. And that’s the best case I can come up with. If a better explanation for this comment exists (senior moment, perhaps?), please let me know in the comments.

Obama’s full radio ad, titled “Terrible:”

Obama also put up a new national TV spot yesterday, and at two minutes this one is really long.

I’ve written before that Obama’s enormous skill in long-form speeches makes his merely average talent with sound bites all the more apparent. Not even a two-minute ad offers enough room for the soaring rhetoric that put him in the national spotlight. However, the ad does manage to stay focused (as much as possible, anyway, for two minutes of talking) on an appealing narrative for middle-class voters who may feel uncertain about this whole economy thing now that Wall Street has lost its mind.

The spot, for your viewing pleasure, but should you lose attention halfway through…

Between the economy TV spot and the “Terrible” spot on water, I think “Terrible” could have a much bigger impact on the election here in Colorado. While Obama has almost no chance of actually winning in the places where voters care the most about the compact, cutting the margin of defeat in these areas will have a tremendous impact on the state-wide total.

Additionally, the fact Obama put together a geographically targeted spot around the McCain quote speaks very well of his campaign organization and their attention to this state. They’ve shown a deep grasp of the issues that matter here, and unlike McCain they don’t want to steal our water. I like that.

Colorado Independent’s blogumnist (blogger-columnist) Jeff Bridges has worked in Democratic politics for the last 10 years, serving as communications director for two congressional races in Colorado and two governors races in the Deep South. Bridges also worked as a legislative assistant in Washington, D.C., with a focus on military and small-business issues.

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