By David Ingram
RALEIGH, N.C. _ The N.C. Republican Party says it will not back away from a planned TV ad that uses footage of Barack Obama’s controversial former minister, despite objections from the expected GOP presidential nominee, John McCain.
The ad, released Wednesday on the Internet, tries to link the minister to two Democratic candidates for governor, both of whom have endorsed Obama.
Republican chairwoman Linda Daves said she would not bow to pressure from the Republican National Committee and others to pull the ad.
“This is not about the RNC,” said Daves, of Charlotte. “It is about North Carolina, our values and two Democrat candidates who are out of synch with the values of North Carolina.”
The ad is believed to be the first time nationwide that Republicans have used the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s comments in a TV advertisement since they drew scrutiny last month.
“For 20 years, Barack Obama sat in his pew, listening to his pastor,” the ad says, segueing into video of Wright shouting, “No, no, no. Not God Bless America. Goddamn America!”
The ad continues, “Now, Bev Perdue and Richard Moore endorse Barack Obama. They should know better. He’s just too extreme for North Carolina.”
At an appearance in New Albany, Ind., Obama was asked about the ad.
“My understanding is that the Republican National Committee and John McCain have both said that the ad’s inappropriate,” he replied, according to The Associated Press.
“I take them at their word,” Obama continued, “and I assume that if John McCain thinks that it’s an inappropriate ad, that he can get them to pull it down since he’s their nominee and standard-bearer.”
McCain called the ad “offensive” and said it “degrades our civics and distracts us from the very real differences we have with the Democrats.”
“From the beginning of this election, I have been committed to running a respectful campaign based upon an honest debate about the great issues confronting America today. I expect all state parties to do so as well,” McCain wrote in an e-mail to Daves, asking her to pull the ad.
Moore, the N.C. treasurer, and Perdue, the lieutenant governor, are the two leading candidates for the Democratic nomination for governor.
“This is another example of gutter politics where folks are trying to distract us from the ultimate prize, which is people waking up and wanting to participate,” Perdue said at an appearance in Charlotte, where she picked up the endorsement of former mayor Harvey Gantt.
Moore’s campaign said he stands by his endorsement of Obama and agrees with McCain’s rebuke.
UNC Charlotte political scientist Ted Arrington said it’s telling that the ad begins with a fundraising appeal.
“The only reasonable effect of this kind of an ad now… is to raise money, and of course to let the party faithful know that you’re alive and kicking,” he said.
Arrington doubted whether the ad would sway voters, given the degrees of separation between Wright and the Democratic gubernatorial candidates. But he said it could raise money for N.C. Republicans, who are perennially strapped for cash.
“Jesse (Helms) showed us that you can raise money from old news, month after month after month,” Arrington said. “Every time he sent a mailer about the Panama Canal, the money would just flow in.”
Daves said the ad would begin airing statewide Monday during evening news shows. She said she did not know how much money would be spent airing it. The money is coming from individual donors, she said.
Caroline Valand, executive director of the N.C. Democratic Party, said the ad represents a return to the Republican Party’s “Southern strategy” of using race to appeal to white voters.
“They don’t have the money to put behind it,” Valand said, “so they’re using old, Southern, racial politics.”
In response to a reporter’s question, Daves said the ad is not race-baiting. “The accusation of race-baiting is one of the oldest-used tools to try to drive a wedge between the people of North Carolina,” she said.
The N.C. primary for governor, president and other offices is May 6. Most polls show Obama with a double-digit lead here over rival Hillary Clinton.
One GOP candidate for governor, Bob Orr, agreed with McCain that the party should not run the ad.
“There are numerous grounds based upon the issues and their records to attack Moore and Perdue,” Orr, a former N.C. Supreme Court justice, said in a statement. “We do not need to spend limited media dollars on some tenuous link between the two Democratic candidates for governor and Reverend Wright.”
The three other major Republican candidates for governor said they have not seen the ad and would not comment.
In a wide-ranging speech on race in March, Obama, the leading Democratic candidate for president, condemned Wright’s most controversial statements. But, he added, “that isn’t all that I know of the man. He has been like family to me. I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community.”
(Charlotte Observer staff writer Peter St. Onge contributed to this report.)
© 2008, The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.).
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