Democrats make final appeals on tv

January 2, 2008 4:36:45 PM PST
The leading Democratic candidates capped months of expensive advertising Wednesday with evening news appeals to Iowa voters as Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton focused on change and John Edwards relied on a laid-off worker to make his case.

Clinton, Obama and Edwards all purchased extra television time for their summations, wrapping up their campaign themes and offering more than the customary 30-second TV sound bites viewers have become accustomed to during the political season.

Obama tells voters he has worked for change "that has made a real difference in the lives of real people."

"I'm running to finally solve problems we talk about year after year after year," Obama says. "To end the division, the obscene influence of lobbyists and the politics that values scoring points over making progress. We can't afford more of that. Not this year. Not now."

Clinton said Iowans should "take the first step" toward changing the direction of the country by voting for her at the caucuses.

"I know you have waited a long time for a president who could hear you and see you," Clinton says. "I would like to be that president. So I ask you to caucus for me tomorrow. Put on your coats and call up a friend and help me change America."

John Edwards relies on the words of laid-off Maytag worker Doug Bishop, who offers a one-minute testimonial that recalls Edwards' pledge to Bishop's son four years ago that "I'm going to keep fighting for your daddy's job, I promise you that."

The three Democrats are neck-and-neck in state polls, giving the contest an air of unpredictability. The contest remains a three-way race even though Obama and Clinton, the two leading fundraisers in the entire presidential field, have vastly outspent Edwards in the state.

Obama, with more than $9 million in ad spending in the state, was the heaviest spender, according to data compiled by TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group, a firm that tracks political advertising. Clinton spent more than $7 million and Edwards more than $3 million, according to the firm's tallies.

In his address, Obama refers to his work as a community organizer and civil rights lawyer in Chicago and says he passed up more lucrative jobs on Wall Street and as a corporate attorney. He argued he can bring Republicans and Democrats together.

"This country is ready for a leader who will bring us together," he says. "That's the only way we're going to win this election. And that's how we'll actually fix health care, make college affordable, become energy independent, and end this war.

"I'm reminded every day that I am not a perfect man. And I won't be a perfect president. But I can promise you this, I will always tell you where I stand and what I think. I will listen to you when we disagree. I will carry your voices to the White House and I will fight for you every day I'm there. So I ask you to caucus tomorrow, not just for me, but for your hopes; for your dreams; for the America you believe is possible."

Clinton, speaking directly to the camera against a soft-focus background, recalls her time campaigning in the state. "The stories you have shared will always stay with me," she says.

The New York senator makes the case she has made on the stump as well, that she alone has the experience - eight years as first lady and seven years in the Senate - to take command of the White House quickly.

Simple and spare in production, her campaign tries to create the aura of an Oval Office address with the ad. In a close-up shot, Clinton is seated with what appears to be a window and table topped with flowers in a vase in the background.

"I'm not running for president to put Band-Aids on our problems. I'm running to solve them," she said, as she has many times at campaign events.

"You have welcomed me into your hearts and your homes. And I thank you," she says. "Parents juggling jobs to pay for college for their kids. Soldiers' families praying for a safe return. All the men and women across the state who have whispered their health care problems to me - bills they can't pay, parents they can't afford to care for, insurance companies who refuse to help."

Edwards makes his last appeal to Iowa voters, not with his own words, but those of Bishop, a working class father. By using Maytag as a foil, the ad touches an emotional nerve in Iowa. Maytag's washer and dryer factory was once the pride of Newton, Iowa, until it closed its doors in October. For Edwards, the plant represents a symbol for his populist rhetoric - one that criticizes corporations, foreign trade deals and special interests.

"I want a guy that's going to sit down and look a 7-year-old kid in the eye and tell him, 'I'm going to fight for your dad's job,"' Bishop says, as he introduces Edwards to an Iowa crowd. "That's what I want. I'm going to do my best to make sure that my children aren't the first generation of Americans that I can't look them in the eye and say, 'You're going to have a better life than I had."'

Edwards supplemented his television spot with a full-page ad in the Des Moines Register that included a written message from Bishop and a lengthy essay from Edwards.

In perhaps the pledge that many Iowans will take most to heart, Obama opens his address by saying:

"You've heard from all of us and read our plans; you've been bombarded with mailings and phone calls, and you'll be glad to know that this is one of the last times you'll hear me say, 'I'm Barack Obama, and I approve this message."' ---
Associated Press Writer Jim Kuhnhenn reported from New Hampshire.