Democrats Planning $40 Million Media Attack on John McCain

This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," April 10, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MEGYN KELLY, CO-HOST: As we get word on those poll numbers rising for John McCain, we learn that Democrats are planning a $40 million media blitz against the Republican nominee, presumptive. A former right wing investigative reporter spearheading the liberal attack ads saying the press has, quote, "fallen down on the job when it comes to John McCain."

But will this plan work?

Pollster Frank Luntz joins us now. Hi, Frank.

Video: Watch the interview

FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER: Let's start off with the fact that the American people said quite clearly, stop the negatives, stop the attacks. Tell me what you're for, not what you're against. This is the same kind of campaign that the Republicans used to do 15 years, 20 years ago. It didn't work for them. It's not going to work for the Democrats right now because they want to know where Barack Obama stands, not what the problems of John McCain.

If this were part of the debate, it's absolutely fair game. And David Brock who's the leader of all this, he's a smart guy, but he's practicing the politics of the 1990s. This is the 21st century.

KELLY: But they say they don't like it when it goes ugly, and yet it seems to work. So, is that what is behind this methodology here?

LUNTZ: Let's take a look at Obama's campaign. It's been probably the most positive campaign that's been run in the last 20 years. He went from absolutely nowhere — he's the likely Democratic nominee. Hillary Clinton has been going after him. Every time that she attacks Obama, it's not that his numbers go down, her numbers go down.

And what you're trying to get out of those people right in the center, the independents, the moderates, they're the ones that tell me, I want to know where you stand. Don't give me these 30-second or 60-second slash ads.

KELLY: OK. But how does it play in that this is not going to be a Barack Obama sponsored campaign? This is going to be this new group, Progressive Media USA, but it's basically the same people involved in Moveon, it's George Soros' money and so on.

They're going to be doing the dirty work, in other words, of the Democratic nominee who may be Obama, who may be Clinton, and whatever. Will it be incumbent upon Clinton or Obama to come out and say, I don't agree with that?

LUNTZ: And it's not going — that's not going to be enough. They're going to have to say take the stuff off the air. And of course, Soros isn't going to do it. But I watched George Soros. has done this before. One year ago, it's almost exactly a year ago, they created this ad "General Betray Us."

At the moment that the American people were turning against the war, they come up with that, an ad. And then, even Democrats who didn't like the war found that they had to attack because they found the ad offensive. This organization doesn't understand subtlety, they don't understand effectiveness. They just want to feel good.

And say this to everyone who supports Barack Obama, you're making a big mistake by in any way endorsing this kind of effort, if they or not too many (ph), they can take it off the air because it doesn't work.

KELLY: But you know what, they think they say they're doing it now because they think the Democrats are missing an opportunity. They think the media have been too easy on John McCain, and they need to get out there against John McCain early.

LUNTZ: Who's the media - I'm sorry, I don't mean to interrupt but who's the media been easiest on, bluntly? Barack Obama. The most negative story that they can use on Obama is that he can't bowl. Give me a break.

KELLY: Well, that's true. I mean, in our defense. He can't.

LUNTZ: OK. So, it's accurate but — and I saw Hillary Clinton try to bowl and that wasn't so great, either. And we know the reason why John McCain can't and there's an issue there. And I think this is very important also for viewers.

John McCain has a background, has a personal history, unlike any other candidate that's been nominated, there's no other individual that has actually sacrificed himself physically for his country. And when John McCain talks about the American dream, it's not just the challenges that Obama faced. For John McCain to stand there and say, the American dream kept me alive for five and a half years, that's a pretty powerful statement. Five and a half years he was in prison for America and then goes into politics. Most politicians do it in the other direction.

KELLY: Nonetheless, Frank, they've got beef with McCain when it comes to the Iraq war. And no sooner do we get this news of this media blitz by this other group Progressive Media and we see a ad going after him.

Let's play a clip and I'll get you to react.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you talk to most military experts. We're in a critical or crucial time. We're either going to lose this thing or win this thing within the next several months.


LUNTZ: I get it. It's clearly to link Bush and McCain together. It's - this is basically first-grade politics. It's politics 101, link someone who isn't popular with your candidate.

KELLY: Also, the endless war in installments, that's their point.

LUNTZ: But the issues, the consequences of the alternative, do you cut and run now? And that concept of consequences is very powerful in this campaign. Make no mistake, the American people do not support the war. They do not support the president's position or John McCain's position, but they don't support the consequences of the Democratic position either.

KELLY: Frank Luntz, thank you so much for being here. Pleasure, as always.

LUNTZ: Thank you.

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