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Barack Obama ad targets include some shockers

June 19, 2008 |  4:11 pm

Much attention, understandably, is being paid to the notes Barack Obama sounds in his first general election television ad, which starts running Friday and can be viewed here.

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Its emphasis on family values, self reliance and patriotism would have made Ronald Reagan's media shop proud. And in case anyone misses the point, the spot's title -- "Country I Love" -- says it all.

What really grabs us, however, is where the ad will appear (and, in one case, where it won't).

For the most part, the 18-state list is predictable. It includes the battlegrounds, large and small, that political analysts expect to watch through election day: Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Iowa, New Hampshire and New Mexico among them.

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But the list also includes a handful of reliably Republican places where Obama aides have been saying they believe he can compete, based on strength he showed among certain voting blocs during the primary season.

The states in this category are Georgia, Indiana, Montana, North Carolina and Virginia.

And then there are two states -- Alaska and North Dakota -- where the airing of the Obama ad demonstrates that:

A) His campaign knows something about these GOP redoubts that the rest of us doesn't;

B) When you're riding herd over an organization that raises massive amounts of cash seemingly without breaking a sweat -- and just today announced it was breaking free of the restraints imposed by the campaign finance system, as our friends at The Swamp write about here -- you can afford to take a flier on a couple of longshots, especially when the media markets are inexpensive;

C) It's always fun, when the November election still seems a long way off, to play in a few of your rival's backyards, if for no other reason than to cause some headaches on the other side.

Probably some combination of A, B and C explains the decision to advertise in Alaska (which President Bush carried with 61% of the vote in 2004) and North Dakota (which Bush won with 63% of the vote four years ago).

Looking at all seven states where the Obama ad buy raises eyebrows, here are some of the daunting historical facts ...

... he must overcome:

** Four of the states -- Alaska, Indiana, North Dakota and Virginia -- have voted Republican in each of the last 10 presidential elections (i.e., every one dating back to and including the 1968 race).

** Among the three others -- Georgia, Montana and North Carolina -- only one has gone Democratic more than once over that time span, and that was a fluke. Georgia stood by its native son, Jimmy Carter, in the 1976 and '80 elections (and also was carried by Bill Clinton in 1992).

** North Carolina's sole break with the GOP came in '76, when Southerner Carter won it; Clinton claimed Montana in '92 (but then couldn't hold it in his 1996 reelection victory).

** The bottom line: in the combined 70 presidential contests in these states since 1968, the Democratic candidates have lost 65 times!

The audacity of hope, indeed.

The surprising omission we mentioned from the ad list is Minnesota.

Once staunchly Democratic in White House races, it became less so in the last two elections. Al Gore carried it by about 60,000 votes in 2000; John Kerry did better four years ago, winning it by about 98,500 votes (out of more than 2.8 million cast). But John McCain will be spotlighted in the state when Minneapolis/St. Paul hosts the Republican National Convention. And if he picks the state's Republican governor, Tim Pawlenty, as his running mate, chances are Obama will have to make a concerted effort to hold onto Minnesota.

Also worthy of note is that, as of now, West Coast TV viewers won't be seeing the new Obama ad. That indicates the confidence -- justifiable -- he has about his prospects in California, Oregon and Washington state.

-- Don Frederick

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