New McCain ad: "Maybe"

John McCain’s campaign has released another television ad today, making them rather busy spending the money they raised in June. This ad appears only in Ohio and answers allegations made by Barack Obama that McCain’s policies caused unemployment in the key battleground state:

Maybe the applause has gone to his head … Saying John McCain cost Ohio jobs, though it’s just not true. It’s Obama’s taxes that will hurt Ohio families. Higher taxes on your paycheck, your life savings, your electric bills.

His taxes are a “recipe for economic disaster.” That’s the real Obama.

Ready to tax. Not ready to lead.

This ad mixes offense with a little defense. It hinges on Obama’s use of a rather obscure legislative battle over DHL and whether it wound up costing jobs at all. Factcheck explains the actual issues at hand, and how little McCain had to do with any of it:

The ads would be correct to point out that McCain opposed the version of the Stevens amendment that would have effectively prohibited the DHL sale. They would even be correct to point out that he opposed the watered-down version, which merely made the merger less attractive. But it’s a stretch to suggest that McCain alone could have prevented the deal. There was considerable opposition even to the watered-down version, and President Bush opposed altering military contracts in the midst of two ongoing wars in Asia. Stevens’ amendment might have passed if McCain supported it, but there is no way to know that.

Moreover the ads go too far in attributing motives to McCain. The Arizona senator has long crusaded against the practice of inserting pet projects into spending bills, and his April 17 press release lists the Stevens amendment as just one of the spending bill’s 51 earmarks and 16 policy changes that he opposed. We can’t judge people’s motives, but we’ve seen no evidence to suggest that McCain’s activities were directed at helping DHL do anything at all. And certainly we’ve seen nothing to suggest that McCain “turned his back on” Wilmington’s workers.

And did the merger, which took place when Congress declined to enact protectionist legislation, actually cost Americans their jobs? Even that seems a stretch, according to Factcheck:

The ads also engage in some fishy causal reasoning. The mailer and the radio ad both argue that it’s the 2003 merger that is the direct cause of the job losses. But that’s far from obvious.

In fact, for several years, the merger provided significant benefits to the residents of Wilmington. It allowed DHL to invest $1.2 billion into its North American Operations. Part of that investment included transferring operations from an older hub in northern Kentucky to the Wilmington facility, a move that added about 1,000 jobs in Wilmington. And while a 2003 article in Aviation Week warned that the merger could affect the survivability of either ABX Air or DHL Airways (which later became ASTAR Air Cargo), the warning proved to be, at best, premature. ABX Air stock rose more than 600 percent in its first year of operation (ASTAR is privately held).

Airborne’s former employees were happy with the deal, as well. A press release from the Teamsters union praised the “historic” agreement it reached with DHL after the merger. The agreement protected more than 6,000 Airborne jobs by including a “no-layoffs provision” and held out a promise of “more Teamster jobs” as the result of anticipated growth. That prediction proved true for a while.

And in fact, the jobs haven’t been “lost” overseas at all. DHL will contract with another American carrier, one 150 miles away from their previous partner.

Playing defense is always difficult to do in 30-second spots, but McCain needs to answer the spurious allegations raised by Obama in Ohio. This spot mixes in the theme of celebrity, as all of McCain’s ads do these days, suggesting that the adulation Obama gets on the road has swelled his head to the point where he can’t use it any longer. It’s a good jab, and maybe it will work. The latest Rasmussen poll in the state has McCain up 10 points, and McCain can’t afford to lose it.

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