Clark Spot Focuses on Leadership Abilities

LOS ANGELES Wesley Clark’s presidential campaign breaks its second ad on Tuesday in New Hampshire; the spot focuses on the kind of leader Clark will be, the candidate’s campaign said.

Produced and directed by Joe Slade White’s political advertising consultancy in East Aurora, N.Y., the 30-second spot from the Democratic hopeful, called “Independence,” begins with copy that reads: “What kind of leader will he be?” A narrator also echoes that theme. A description of Clark’s background follows along with black-and-white snapshots from his childhood through college years.

Copy states: “From a middle-class background he graduated first in his class at West Point and rose to become a four-star general. He was never a ‘yes man’ and stood up for what he believed was right. He fought for better schools and for better healthcare for those he led, because it was the right thing to do.”

The spot ends with the tagline, “A quiet, real American courage: He will make an extraordinary American president.”

White also created Clark’s opening salvo, a biographical 60-second spot called “Story,” almost entirely devoted to his service record, his heroism in Vietnam and his leadership of NATO troops in Bosnia [Adweek Online, Nov. 18]. The Clark campaign plans to use that spot in every state (with the exception of Iowa) for two weeks only.

Four additional spots are in development. The next batch is expected to break in South Carolina early this month. “We will be aggressively on the air in New Hampshire all the way through,” said Matt Bennett, Clark’s communications director. “[The effort] will also run in Arizona and South Carolina.”

The ads will become increasingly issue-oriented, Bennett said. Later spots will not stress Clark’s war record as much as the first spots did: “It defined his life,” said Bennett. “It is an inescapable part of describing who he is. We’ve probably done enough portraying him as a soldier and statesman who led a war that was unpopular with the Pentagon.”

Bennett speculated that, as a political issue, mixed feelings on the war in Iraq makes Clark’s service “probably an asset. He’s a dovish military man. Our polling is finding it helps in places like South Carolina, and that it is not as helpful, but certainly not a hindrance in other states.”

Bennett said Clark’s war experience will be re-introduced in a national campaign, as well as the candidate’s “strong, consistent stand on why [the war in Iraq] is a mistake, and how we can bring a sensible solution. That will be attractive to the voters.”

Meanwhile, Howard Dean and Sen. John Edwards broke new ads on Monday. The Dean campaign launched a 60-second spot in Iowa that discusses the former Vermont governor’s rejection of public financing and spending limits. The ad refers to Dean’s fiscal credibility, healthcare policy and desire to repeal President George Bush’s tax cut. In part, the ad says: “He took classes at night to get into medical school, worked in an emergency room in the Bronx, and with his wife Judy, Howard Dean became a family doctor hoping to make a difference one life at a time. He became a governor under the worst of circumstances and earned a reputation as a maverick and independent by turning a deficit into a surplus and creating jobs.”

A 30-second Edwards spot called “Pool,” which aired during evening news programs in Iowa, attacks Bush for his tax policy. The commercial shows Edwards at a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, event on Oct. 7, where he says, “This President should be made to explain why a multi-millionaire sitting beside his swimming pool should be paying a lower tax rate than a teacher, than a police officer, than a secretary.” Edwards then urges voters to, “Repeal tax breaks George Bush created for wealthy investors and target tax cuts to the middle class.”

The spot is the 15th produced by political consultant David Axelrod of Axelrod and Associates, Chicago. The ads have been running intermittently in New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina and on the candidate’s Web site.

This story updates an item posted earlier today to include the Dean and Edwards commercials.