Crossposted at Daily Kos
Yesterday, Democratic Courage, a independent PAC which seems to have only one goal – bring down Hillary Clinton – began airing, in limited, highly targeted cable TV spots in Iowa, the first attack ad on Hillary Clinton to come from the left. Much like the sparsely aired Swift Boat ads, the media coverage being allotted the attacks is heavily outweighing the visibility of the ads on their own.
Are the ads effective, and will they have an impact on the Democratic race in Iowa and the other early primary states?
The ad focuses on a single issue – Hillary proposal, at a speech to the Congressional Black Caucus, to give each child in America a $5,000 account that will grow over time, an investment in the child’s future. The plan, however, was attacked by Republicans.
Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani is the only top-tier Republican nomination candidate to have made Mrs. Clinton’s proposal central to his campaign speeches, calling it a “socialist” program that will cost $20 billion annually in an address to the Americans for Prosperity conference Friday.
He joked with the anti-spending group that “Hillary Bonds” might come complete “with Hillary’s picture on them” and would cost $20 billion per year. He compared it to George McGovern’s 1972 Democratic campaign promise of $1,000 to every American.
Quietly, and without much political damage, Hillary dropped the plan. Rudy Guiliani hailed it has a victory, but otherwise, and especially in the Democratic Primary race, this incident went unnoticed. To many on the left, it didn’t sound like a great plan – idealistically hopeful, but unfeasible and politically damaging in a General election. That 5,000 could be spent in far better ways.
The ad attacks Hillary for giving in to the Republicans on the 5,000 issue, and not standing up for Democratic values, lacking the courage or conviction to stand up against Rudy Guiliani and the Republicans. The ad plays to our John Kerry fear – fear of a Democratic candidate who will not stand up to the Republicans and who will allow them to make a complete caricature of him or her. It also plays on Hillary’s negative traits – that she is poll driven, only takes positions that are popular, and that she’s calculating. However, Hillary is not percieved as someone, like many other Senators, who succumbs to being attacked, to many that is her strength as a Clinton, someone who has withered the Republican attack machine.
However, since the ad choose an issue that Hillary only mentioned in that one speech (as far as I know), never released it as a concrete proposals, and was generally agreed even on the left as not being a best use of money or a top priority, it’s tough to see how effective this will be with Democrats in Iowa. There are a host of other issues that would have resonated more powerfully with the same message, the most obvious example being the vote to Authorize Force in Iraq, but also her Iran vote, her vote for the Patriot Act, and her stance against timetables until after Nov of 2006.
If this is the first in a series of ads on Hillary, then it makes more sense, but otherwise, minus the media coverage, this ad is far less effective than the numerous Hillary attack ads from the right, and should make a huge impact on the Iowa race. However, it is interesting to see what angle Democratic Courage will be taking against Hillary in the coming months, and it’ll be interesting to see if these attacks stick or not. If they do, this will be like the Swift Boat Attacks on Kerry, an attack on Hillary’s strengths by equating them to her weaknesses.