It's been a good week for the McCain campaign, to put it mildly, but I think yesterday's "lipstick on a pig" faux-outrage was "win the news cycle, undercut your long-term appeal" mistake, for exactly the reasons Ramesh outlines:
... there may have been good ways to take shots at Obama over the "lipstick on a pig" comment. But the Republicans are coming across as whiny grievance-mongers. Don't they realize that this harping on ambiguous slights is what people hate about political correctness? It was bad enough when liberals were trying to destroy Palin. Now Republicans are trashing her brand. They're undermining the basis of her appeal as a different, tougher kind of female politician.
And then there's the sex-ed ad, which feels more appropriate to a failing, flailing right-wing campaign than a confident, rising conservative ticket. Jim Geraghty marshals the strongest defense of the ad here, which you can compare to Factcheck.org's critique. The bill that Obama supported did, in fact, seek to amend the school code so that the state guidelines for "comprehensive sex education" would apply to grades K-12, rather than grades 6-12 (as had previously been the case); on the other hand, it also required that "course material and instruction ... shall be age and developmentally appropriate." The Obama campaign has argued, and the press has reported, that the only age-appropriate sex ed the bill envisioned for kindergarten involved the distinction between appropriate and inappropriate touching. I'm not sure I quite buy that, since the bill includes provisions like the following: "Whenever such courses of instruction are provided in any of grades K-12, then such courses also shall include age-appropriate instruction on the prevention of sexually transmitted infections." This could be read to suggest that STDs as well as "good touch, bad touch" were being treated as a potentially appropriate topic for kindergarten, which ups the measure's creepiness factor in my book. But the language is somewhat ambiguous, and certainly there's no reason to think that the bill envisioned five-year-olds putting condoms on a banana, which is the image that the McCain ad seems designed to summon up. Moreover, Obama didn't write or co-sponsor the legislation (he voted for it in a party-line vote) and it never became law, so calling it "his one accomplishment" on education is just false. And even if aspects of the sex-ed claim are technically defensible, the whole thing just feels bullshitty and gross - like a parody of a culture-war ad. I have no problem with campaigning on culture war issues, and God knows Obama has vulnerabilities, but there's a right way and a wrong way to do it, and this ad falls into the second category.