One presidential candidate, at the Family Research Council D.C. Briefing, passed a little noticed milestone:
Ex-Sen. Fred Thompson used campaign funds to pay for a pamphlet that casts his fellow candidates in a less-than-flattering flight. It's the first example of non-email contrast advertising -- in this case, printed advertising, used by any major candidate, Republican or Democrat.
The pamphlet is entitled "Where Are They On The Issues That Matter Most To Your Family?" --
A subhead says that 'Fred Thompson Has A "Demonstrated Record Of Supporting Human Life." "Rudy Giuliani Is Vocally Pro-Choice." "Mitt Romney Was Proudly Pro-Choice Until 2005." The picture of Romney is captioned "Romney, moving to the left of Ted." As in Kennedy.)
The bottom includes this disclaimer: "Paid For By Friends Of Fred Thompson, Inc."
The content is factual; the context is only slightly misleading in the way that most candidate contrast ads are misleading, but not misleading enough to warrant the adjective "outright." It's fair -- if a bit simplistic.
One of the big remaining questions of this race is whether and when the challengers -- Romney, Thompson, Obama, Edwards, will air television ads that mention the frontrunners, Giuliani and Clinton. If they do, those ads will probably be labeled as "negative," but that's not an accurate description.
Still, Thompson's small step is one big step for campaign-kind. In a sense, it opens the door for other candidates to follow him. And it suggests that Thompson won't hide behind good ol' Southern manners in the forthcoming debates.
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