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The Heart Of The Heartland

The Edwards campaign began broadcasting an ad in Iowa yesterday.  I've linked up the YouTube of the ad above for everyone to view — and I wanted to take a bit of time this morning to talk about what is and is not effective with this particular campaign ad and its message. 

First off, I love the people in the ad.  I was on a media conference call with the Edwards' campaign folks in Iowa yesterday afternoon, and it turns out that all of the folks in this ad are Iowans who are fed up with the mess that is Iraq — and fed up with President Bush and the Republicans trying to duck any responsibility for it.  Great use of real people talking about an issue that hits home with far too many hearts in the heartland of America these days. 

Sen. Edwards was also on the call, and he answered a few media questions after a staffer gave us a short run-down on the ad and when it would start airing in Iowa (the answer is that it started yesterday) and the fact that this is part of a larger media push from the campaign.  One of the more intriguing parts of this, I thought, was how the campaign is tying this in with their overall message about a need for citizen activism — by asking Americans all over the country to visit the Edwards campaign website and to record their own thoughts about Iraq and the need to get American soldiers home.

I think that is a very clever way of pulling folks into the campaign by inspiring them to take action, to use their own voice and speak up on an issue that likely means a lot to them.  It's a good move, and one that could really ignite some passion among some folks out there.

However, I think the scripting on this ad is a little…how shall I say this…stale and not nearly passionate enough for what they are trying to do?  I've watched it a couple of times, and the emotion on the faces of the folks in the ad is not matched by the words they are saying.  I know the Iowa ad is a scripted one, because the words are the same in the ad rolled out nationally on the Edwards website — it is just different people saying the same words in these two different ads.

I dunno.  I can't quite put my finger on what it is that bothers me about the ad, mainly because I think the concept is very clever — you guys know that I'm a big supporter of individual empowerment and citizen action.  And because the folks in the Iowa ad above are the same folks that I see here in my own hometown — people with kids and grandkids and folks they know in church and all over town, serving in uniform, everyone hoping and waiting with that same bated breath that they all come home in one piece, safe and sound, and dreading a call that says otherwise.  (I'm particularly fond of the woman who says, "DON'T back down!"  She's a keeper!)  But it is the lack of an "ask" in this ad, I suppose, that leaves me hanging.

About Iraq and Congress, Sen. Edwards said on the call that "compromise is a concession on this question…" and that it is "very important that Congress stand its ground."  There were a lot of media questions about whether that meant that Democrats would be "cutting and running" on Iraq, or whether Democrats would be painted as soft on defense — and I wanted to yell into my phone that perhaps these reporters needed to go back to remedial math to learn that 70 percent plus means a substantial majority of Americans think that George Bush's Iraq mess is a failure and that they are sick of other people's children paying the price for his ego.  But, alas, it wasn't my turn to ask a question — and, frankly, Sen. Edwards was doing just fine answering them on his own (although he does sound like he has a bit of a cold) by reminding them that the American people had already spoken on this issue last fall by taking control of Congress from the GOP and putting both houses in Democratic hands — that Americans want action, not just empty rhetoric.

Guess what I wanted from this ad was more of a call to action — a "call your members of Congress" or a "write a letter to the editor" or something.  Anything to get the ball rolling.  And then I realized, that's really up to all of us to decide what action we think needs to be taken on this.  So, I'm asking:  what action are you taking on this issue?  And, while we're at it, what do you think of this ad?

I've been trying to get more media access for FDL on campaign calls like this, so we can bring immediate news and impressions to you all about candidate messaging — even this early in the process.  There will be a lot of this in the days, weeks and months ahead — and we'll try to get as much of this type of information as we can into your hands when we have the opportunity to do so.

I know we have some Edwards supporters in the audience, and I thought this article was a good first step in examining his health care proposals — as well as an example of how early candidates are getting information into the hands of Iowans this year.  (For our Iowa readers, this seems early to me.  Is it, or is it a misunderstanding on my part on how things have operated the last few years in terms of reach out timing?)  And the NYTimes caucus blog says that multiple polls are showing an Edwards lead over Clinton in Iowa and a very close race at the moment in New Hampshire — but all of this is awfully early.  Edwards has done a lot of ground work in Iowa, though, and it will be interesting to see how this all plays out between now and the caucuses.  Anyone who can give an on the ground report in early caucus and primary states, please fill the rest of us in on how things are going in your neck of the country.  Chris Cillizza has more on the call and the on the ground efforts from the Edwards campaign in Iowa as well.  More on the primary doings — and from other candidates' perspectives — as I get the opportunities to bring them to you. 

Also, VoteVets has a new ad campaign going with Ret. Gen. Batiste — and I think this ad is very well done.  (H/T to nolo.)  Take a peek and see what you think as well — frankly, this is not going to make the McCain campaign very happy, and that's just for starters.  I have to say, I have never seen newly retired military brass speak up like this.  Ever.  It's going to be an interesting year.

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com

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