CBS’s Smith: ‘Is McCain Winning the Ad War?’

Harry Smith and Bob Schieffer, CBS On Monday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith actually reported on the latest Gallup poll numbers showing a virtual tie between Barack Obama and John McCain: "Neck and neck. Polls show John McCain and Barack Obama statistically tied. Is McCain winning the ad war?" Smith later declared: "McCain has erased much of Obama's earlier lead on the Gallup poll" and asked "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer: "How do you read this? How should we interpret this?"

Schieffer admitted that the recent round of McCain ads, which he and much of the media declared as "nasty" and "the low road," were effective: "I think one conclusion you can draw is as crude as it was, the ad that the McCain people ran comparing Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton may have cut through with some voters to the place where Obama would be the most vulnerable and that is, that is he is a person of some inexperience." On the July 31 "Early Show" Schieffer made a prediction about the McCain ad: "I think there's a high possibility that all this could blow up in their face and backfire."

Smith then worried about the effect the "crude" ad was having on Obama’s campaign: "Senator McCain has not been shy whatsoever about his attacks on Barack Obama. In the old adage, old political adage, if you allow your opponent to define you, you're going to end up in serious trouble. Is Obama allowing this to happen?" Schieffer again admitted the effectiveness of the McCain campaign: "Well, this is what the McCain people were trying to do. They were trying to make this a referendum on Barack Obama. And I think to a certain extent they have succeeded in that."

At the end of the segment, a disappointed Schieffer lamented the negative turn in the campaign: "Obama's going to respond now by going negative on McCain. He has a new ad out this morning whereas he is accusing McCain of being in the pocket of big oil, and saying, you know, that McCain is trying to give all the big oil companies a tax break here, where Obama is trying to be for the little guy. But we've got a campaign now where both sides have gone negative despite what both sides said at the beginning about how we can make this a positive discussion."

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:00AM TEASER:

HARRY SMITH: Neck and neck. Polls show John McCain and Barack Obama statistically tied. Is McCain winning the ad war?

7:10AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: Now to politics and the race for the White House. The latest Gallup poll shows John McCain and Barack Obama in a statistical dead heat, 45% for Obama, 44% for McCain, meaning McCain has erased much of Obama's earlier lead on the Gallup poll. Joining is Bob Schieffer, CBS News chief Washington correspondent and host of 'Face the Nation.' Good morning, Bob.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Good morning, Harry.

SMITH: You know, Obama was up in most of the early polls. It's been very close in most of the polls, though, for the last several weeks. How do you read this? How should we interpret this?

SCHIEFFER: Well, I think that one thing you can say is that neither of these campaigns is really catching fire with voters. Nobody has yet reached 50% on either side. Having said that, I think one conclusion you can draw is as crude as it was, the ad that the McCain people ran comparing Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton may have cut through with some voters to the place where Obama would be the most vulnerable and that is, that is he is a person of some inexperience. One thing they have done for sure, they have taken the attention away from Barack Obama and that big tour of Europe that he made, his trip to Iraq, and focused it back on John McCain. The McCain people have felt all along, Harry, that they just couldn't get any attention.

SMITH: Right.

SCHIEFFER: They certainly got the attention and it apparently worked the way they wanted it to.

SMITH: Here's my question. I mean it's -- we're very early on. We're a long way away from the general election. Senator McCain has not been shy whatsoever about his attacks on Barack Obama. In the old adage, old political adage, if you allow your opponent to define you, you're going to end up in serious trouble. Is Obama allowing this to happen?

SCHIEFFER: Well, this is what the McCain people were trying to do. They were trying to make this a referendum on Barack Obama. And I think to a certain extent they have succeeded in that. Now, where they go from here, I think -- I think that is, you know, that's what candidates want to do. They want to give the voters their version of the other guy. Now, they've got to go beyond that. But I think at this point, Harry, you have to say they have succeeded somewhat.

SMITH: Right.

SCHIEFFER: They are now getting the attention. Obama's going to respond now by going negative on McCain. He has a new ad out this morning whereas he is accusing McCain of being in the pocket of big oil, and saying, you know, that McCain is trying to give all the big oil companies a tax break here, where Obama is trying to be for the little guy. But we've got a campaign now where both sides have gone negative despite what both sides said at the beginning about how we can make this a positive discussion.

SMITH: Right.

SCHIEFFER: They're not doing it.

SMITH: It's an interesting travel on the high road, right? Okay, Bob Schieffer, as always a pleasure to see you. Thanks so much.

SCHIEFFER: Okay, Harry.

SMITH: Alright. Take care.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC