On January 5, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported that Sen. John McCain "told employees at BAE Systems that [Mitt] Romney's loss [in the Iowa caucuses] was due to his negative campaigning." In another January 5 article, the Union Leader reported McCain's assertion that "negative ads don't work." While both articles noted that Romney has been running negative ads "suggesting McCain supports amnesty because of his earlier support for a bipartisan immigration bill," neither article mentioned that McCain has run negative TV and Web ads against Romney including one his campaign released the same day McCain spoke to BAE Systems employees.
In a January 5 New Hampshire Union Leader article headlined, "McCain: Negative campaigns fail," correspondent Suzanne Bates reported that on January 4, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) had "told employees at BAE Systems that [Republican presidential candidate Mitt] Romney's loss [in the Iowa caucuses] was due to his negative campaigning." Bates then quoted McCain's response to a question about "whether he supported amnesty for illegal immigrants," in which he said: "People are not going to be fooled by negative campaigns." In another January 5 Union Leader article, staff writer Scott Brooks reported that "McCain said he drew two lessons from the Iowa caucuses: that negative ads don't work, and that, 'If you're a person who is trustworthy, you can do well.' " While both Union Leader articles reported that -- in Bates' words -- Romney has been running negative ads "suggesting McCain supports amnesty because of his earlier support for a bipartisan immigration bill," neither article noted, as Media Matters for America has documented, that McCain has run negative TV and Web ads against Romney including one his campaign released the same day McCain spoke to BAE Systems employees.
On December 28, the McCain campaign announced the release of its TV ad "Consider," which quotes a Concord Monitor editorial asserting, "If a candidate is a phony ... we'll know it. Mitt Romney is such a candidate." Time magazine senior political analyst Mark Halperin reported on his Time.com blog The Page that the ad was the "first negative ad by any candidate besides Romney." In a December 28 post on ABC News' blog Political Radar, Matt Stuart reported that Romney responded to the ad, saying: "It's an attack ad. It attacks me personally. It's nasty. It's mean spirited. Frankly, it tells you more about Sen. McCain than it does about me that he would run an ad like that."
McCain has also criticized Romney in three Web ads: "Experience," released January 1, "Foreign Policy Alert," released January 2, and "Leadership," released January 4. "Experience" opens with footage of a bomb blast and its aftermath, then cuts to footage of what appears to be a terrorist training camp. A narrator states, "Mitt Romney says the next president doesn't need foreign policy experience." In "Foreign Policy Alert," the narrator also asserts that "Mitt Romney says the next president doesn't need foreign policy experience." The narrator adds: "Here he is in his own words." The ad features a clip of Romney asserting: "Well, if we want somebody who has a lot of experience in foreign policy we can simply go to the State Department." The announcer continues, "Is he serious? We live in a dangerous world. And these are serious times. America needs a president who is serious about foreign policy. John McCain is the one man prepared to lead America in a time of crisis."
In "Leadership," released the same day McCain spoke to BAE Systems as reported in the article, an announcer asserts that "Mitt Romney compares himself to John McCain and their public service and says 'I've actually been leading.' " The narrator continues: "Mitt Romney leading? He'd rather call lawyers ... and bureaucrats." The ad features clips of Romney asserting: "You sit down with your attorneys and tell you what you have to do," "Uh, you know, we're gonna let the lawyers sort out" and "Well, if we want somebody who has a lot of experience in foreign policy, we can simply go to the State Department." The announcer concludes by claiming that "When it comes to leadership, John McCain doesn't have to call anyone."
Additionally, the Nashua Telegraph reported on December 18 that McCain "launched an attack -- a direct mail campaign labeling New Hampshire primary front-runner Mitt Romney as a serial flip-flopper that 'voters can't trust.' " The Telegraph added that the "mailing is believed to be the first, campaign-paid flier in New Hampshire by any candidate critical of former Massachusetts Gov. Romney, who holds onto a solid lead in GOP primary polls here."
Media Matters has identified numerous other media outlets, including the Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, the Politico, The Washington Post, and USA Today, that carried McCain's condemnation of negative campaigning without noting that he has been running negative ads against Romney.
By contrast, a January 5 Concord Monitor article by Kate Davidson noted that "McCain and ... Romney ... unveiled dueling web videos and attacked each other on the campaign trail as they returned to New Hampshire yesterday for the final push before Tuesday's primary." The article reported that McCain spokeswoman Crystal Benton claimed that one Web ad, "Leadership," "was not negative campaigning, but simply a response to attacks from the Romney campaign against McCain." And a January 4 AP article by Holly Ramer reported that McCain told New Hampshire voters "not to pay attention to money and negative ads. ... But McCain released another negative ad of his own Friday calling into question Romney's leadership and foreign policy experience."
From Bates' January 5 New Hampshire Union Leader article:
Sen. John McCain, campaigning yesterday with his wife, Cindy, was upbeat despite his fourth-place finish in Thursday's Iowa caucuses.
McCain's good mood was largely due to the second-place finish of his main Republican rival in next Tuesday's primary, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
McCain was not expected to win in Iowa, but Romney had been leading in polls there for months, only to see the lead evaporate in the face of a late surge by former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas.
McCain told employees at BAE Systems that Romney's loss was due to his negative campaigning.
"People are not going to be fooled by negative campaigns," he said, responding to a question about whether he supported amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Romney has been running ads suggesting McCain supports amnesty because of his earlier support for a bipartisan immigration bill. McCain said yesterday he has never supported amnesty.
Most of McCain's remarks focused on national security, an area largely seen as his greatest strength because of his own experience as a naval officer and as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
From Brooks' January 5 article, headlined "The Republicans: McCain, Huckabee on fire, but Romney may feel heat":
McCain said he drew two lessons from the Iowa caucuses: that negative ads don't work, and that, "If you're a person who is trustworthy, you can do well."
He also said he agrees with the "overwhelming media view" of Sen. Barack Obama's victory in the Democratic caucuses: Obama "is seen as a fresh face, and a lot of people, particularly younger ones, seem to be looking for that."
Romney struck a similar chord while attacking McCain yesterday, saying, "People are saying they want to see Washington change, and John McCain is not a candidate of change."
McCain was jocular on the campaign trail yesterday, despite a horde of television and print reporters surrounding him at all times. He repeatedly complimented Huckabee, calling him a "likeable, decent human being" and said whatever differences they have on taxes or national security are "respectful differences."
His stops yesterday drew a large number of voters who described themselves as undecided. In both Nashua and Hollis, several would-be voters said they remain torn between McCain and Romney. One voter, Anita Beaulieu of Hollis, said she's seen McCain three times and Romney once, and still she was on the fence.
Tim Dame, who works for BAE Systems in Nashua, said he "hasn't been able to align himself fully" with any candidate yet. He said he was concerned about Romney's television ads claiming McCain has supported "amnesty" for illegal immigrants. (McCain said that is a distortion of his position.)
"I want a clarification from John McCain himself," Dame said.