CBS’s Rodriguez: McCain Ad ‘Started This Negative Tide’

Maggie Rodriguez, CBS On Thursday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez talked to Republican strategist Ed Rollins about the recent exchange of ads between the McCain and Obama campaigns and started the discussion by declaring: "Let's begin with the one that started this negative tide, John McCain's ad last week comparing Barack Obama to celebrities Paris Hilton and Britney Spears." Rodriguez went on to admit the media’s distaste for the ad as she asked Rollins: "So even though he was being criticized, do you think this was an effective ad because it got people talking about McCain again?" On Wednesday’s CBS "Evening News" correspondent Dean Reynolds said of the McCain ad: "Some Republicans wonder about the new approach. McCain's own mother said using Paris Hilton in this controversial ad to insult Obama was, quote, ‘kind of stupid.’"

Later in the Early Show segment, Rodriguez introduced a clip of the Obama campaign’s response ad in a positive fashion: "Barack Obama says that he -- John McCain is taking the low road. He's supposed to be a straight talker who doesn't resort to this sort of thing, but he has. And he said as much in this ad, let's take a look at it." When Rodriguez asked Rollins what he thought of the ad, he observed: "Well he's responding to McCain. The truth of the matter is you want to run your own campaign, you don't want to respond in the opposition. That's the basic rule." Rodriguez seemed surprised by the critique: "You don't think that Barack Obama pointing out John McCain's weaknesses, in his view, is a good strategy?"

At the top of the show, co-host Harry Smith teased the segment by declaring: "McCain launches another attack on Obama. Is it having an effect on the latest polls?" Rodriguez offered a similar preview: "Up next, McCain versus Obama. Yet another new negative ad is out. You will see it." This new "attack on Obama" referred to a new McCain ad that again referred to Obama as a "celebrity": "Is the biggest celebrity in the world, ready to help your family? The real Obama promises higher taxes, more government spending. So, fewer jobs."

Rodriguez described the latest ad as "a part two" to McCain’s original celebrity ad, but seemed to suggest that it wasn’t quite as negative: "So still a jab about the celebrity but much more on message...And also when they say things like ‘he's going to raise your taxes,’ which they focused on much more in this ad than the first one." In reality, both 32-second ads spent only about 7-8 seconds referring to Obama’s celebrity status.

Following up on Smith’s question: "Is it having an effect on the latest polls?" Rodriguez quoted new poll numbers: "A new CBS News poll on the presidential race is out this morning and it shows Barack Obama leads John McCain 45% to 39%, the same lead that he had a month ago." Prior to proclaiming that McCain started a "negative tide," Rodriguez observed: "With such a tight race, the gloves are off as more and more campaign ads take negative turns." Apparently only McCain campaign ads, according to CBS.

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:00AM TEASER:

HARRY SMITH: The Paris effect. Her ad draws millions of viewers as McCain launches another attack on Obama. Is it having an effect on the latest polls?

7:12AM TEASER:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Up next, McCain versus Obama. Yet another new negative ad is out. You will see it. Plus, has Paris Hilton's ad changed the game?

7:16AM SEGMENT:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: A new CBS News poll on the presidential race is out this morning and it shows Barack Obama leads John McCain 45% to 39%, the same lead that he had a month ago. With such a tight race, the gloves are off as more and more campaign ads take negative turns. Ed Rollins is a Republican strategist and a veteran of political campaigns and he's here to talk ads with us this morning.

ROLLINS: Morning. My pleasure.

RODRIGUEZ: Good morning. And that's why we're so far apart, because we're going to watch these ads. Let's begin with the one that started this negative tide, John McCain's ad last week comparing Barack Obama to celebrities Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. Obama had just come back from his overseas trip. Everybody was talking about him. Then suddenly this ad comes out and everybody -- us -- starts talking about John McCain. So even though he was being criticized, do you think this was an effective ad because it got people talking about McCain again?

ED ROLLINS: Well, it was a very effective ad because for the first time since really February, the equal news coverage for the week, and it was about this ad. Network television, cable television put this on and made it work. At the end of the day the message is that he's not ready to lead. And I think that's in essence what McCain wanted to do.

RODRIGUEZ: Last week the McCain camp told me they were very pleased with the ad and the response. And they must be, because we're sort of seeing a part two, a new version of this which just came out. And I'd like to show it for those of you who haven't seen it. So let's take a look.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Is the biggest celebrity in the world, ready to help your family? The real Obama promises higher taxes, more government spending. So, fewer jobs. Renewable energy to transform our economy, create jobs and energy independence. That's John McCain.

RODRIGUEZ: So still a jab about the celebrity but much more on message, Ed.

ROLLINS: It's definitely on message and the message obviously are the things that are the negatives. But I think the key thing here is it's building on this celebrity. This is a guy who basically four years ago nobody knew who he was, now they do. He's very famous but there's no substance. And I think that's their message.

RODRIGUEZ: And also when they say things like 'he's going to raise your taxes,' which they focused on much more in this ad than the first one.

ROLLINS: Absolutely. That's the message you want to drive. I mean, it's -- this is an ad that'll work in August. It may not in October. But the message of raising taxes will definitely work in October. And I think you're going to keep hearing that over and over and over again.

RODRIGUEZ: Alright, Barack Obama says that he -- John McCain is taking the low road. He's supposed to be a straight talker who doesn't resort to this sort of thing, but he has. And he said as much in this ad, let's take a look at it.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN B: He's practicing the politics of the past. John McCain. His attacks on Barack Obama 'not true,' 'false,' 'baloney,' 'the low road,' 'baseless.' John McCain, same old politics, same failed policies. Barack Obama supports a $1,000 middle class tax cut, an energy plan that takes on oil companies, develops alternative fuels, and breaks the grip of foreign oil. That's change-

RODRIGUEZ: What do you think?

ROLLINS: Well he's responding to McCain. The truth of the matter is you want to run your own campaign, you don't want to respond in the opposition. That's the basic rule. But I think he thinks that the ads must have been effective enough that he's out there basically responding already. Once again, this is August. What goes on in September, October, maybe a totally different game.

RODRIGUEZ: You don't think that Barack Obama pointing out John McCain's weaknesses, in his view, is a good strategy?

ROLLINS: Well, it's a good strategy in the sense, if he can make McCain a grumpy old man as opposed to a significant command-in-chief, he's done his job. And I think that's what he wants to do. He's the more likable candidate by an overwhelming margin. And in the end, these undecided voters often vote for the person they like the most.

RODRIGUEZ: I want to ask you about Hillary Clinton real quick, because we're hearing this morning that she is not ruling out placing her name for nomination at the convention.

ROLLINS: I think that'd be a foolish mistake on her part. I think she's had a tremendous campaign. I think she's only enhanced herself, even though she didn't win. I think if she plays any kind of havoc, and it would create havoc at a convention, it'll be a detriment to her.

RODRIGUEZ: She can't do that.

ROLLINS: I would hope that she wouldn't for her sake.

RODRIGUEZ: Alright. Thank you very much.

ROLLINS: My pleasure, thank you. Wonderful to be here.

RODRIGUEZ: Ed Rollins, appreciate your time. And if you have a video response to any of these ads, send them to our website, it's earlyshow.cbsnews.com. And we'll air the best ones.

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