On the eve of Michigan’s primary, a group called “Vietnam Veterans Against McCain” released an attack ad against Arizona Sen. John McCain, a former Vietnam POW, attempting to smear his military service.
On Tuesday, a group called “Common Sense Issues” conducted automated calls telling voters McCain had voted to use unborn babies in medical research.
This year, McCain’s South Carolina Truth Squad is organized to defend against ambushes similar to one that that derailed his 2000 presidential bid.
McCain lost in South Carolina’s 2000 Republican primary to George W. Bush by a margin of 53 percent to 42 percent after a particularly negative campaign against him waged by social conservatives that supported Bush. Rumors spread that McCain’s wife Cindy was a drug addict and that his daughter was fathered out of wedlock. Though McCain went on to win some other states, the South Carolina defeat signaled the beginning of his eventual defeat.
“We hear that phone calls are being made. We will not let it go this time,” McCain said aboard his Straight Talk Express bus on Wednesday.
Sure enough, his Truth Squad reacted quickly to the smear campaigns: “Allow me to set the record straight. In the U.S. Senate, John McCain has been an unwavering voice for the rights of the unborn,” said South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster on Wednesday. “He has fought, without concern of political consequence, to eliminate wasteful spending in Washington. And John McCain understands that solving the problem of illegal immigration requires that we secure our borders first.” McCain opposes abortion but does support embryonic stem cell research.
“Common Sense Issues” supports McCain’s rival, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who is tied with McCain in South Carolina polls. McCain’s team released a Web ad called Trust Huckabee on Friday that collects quotes from Huckabee praising McCain’s conservative record.
Another Web ad released on Thursday “Character in Spades” highlights McCain’s military service, beginning with a quote from NBC journalist Tim Russert: “McCain spent five years in a box. Baking in the heat.”
McCain with campaign on Saturday in South Carolina with plans to visit a polling station in Charleston.