Expected GOP nominee John McCain may be buried under an avalanche of criticism over his "Celeb" ad that compares the popularity—and heft—of Democratic rival Barack Obama to that of celebutants Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, but his campaign advisers are feeling just fine about the ad's reception.
"It's a very good spot," one McCain adviser told U.S. News, and "a credit" to the campaign's new mastermind—Karl Rove acolyte Steve Schmidt, whom McCain elevated to top dog a month ago.
Schmidt was put in charge amid increasingly bitter criticism by GOP leaders that the McCain campaign lacked focus and was always back on its heels, in a permanent defensive posture. Schmidt's hand can be seen not only in the series of more aggressive and negative ads but also in an increasing effort to keep the freewheeling McCain focused on a disciplined message.
The campaign, the adviser says, is "much stronger than it was a month ago."
Meanwhile, the back and forth continued between the two campaigns over whether Obama injected race into the contest by suggesting that McCain and Republicans are trying to "scare" voters by noting that the Democratic candidate doesn't look like past presidents and "has a funny name." The Obama campaign has launched a website dubbed Low Road Express to chronicle what campaign strategist David Plouffe called McCain's efforts at "Swift-boating" the Democrat.
McCain, Plouffe told reporters yesterday, is embracing the "Rove playbook that people are tired of."
The McCain camp continues to claim that Obama injected race into the narrative by linking McCain to comments he's never made about Obama's race or name.
And this morning, the Republican National Committee showed just how worried the party is about backlash over the "Celeb" ad. It launched a website, Who Said It: Celebrity Edition, that features a guessing game about quotes by Obama and celebrities like Madonna and Cameron Diaz. So it goes.