updated 3/4/2004 1:35:57 AM ET 2004-03-04T06:35:57

The first of President Bush's ads have been released, and it’s an important day in the Battle for the White house, according to MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. “We‘re beginning to see how President Bush and his experts plan to get him re-elected this November. ”

Chris Matthews talked to political strategists about the political ads. They studied them frame-by-frame, critiqued the quality and the messaging, and dissected what this means in the battle for the White House. Read their reactions to the three ads:

Video: New Bush/Cheney video features First Lady

Ad 1: “Lead”

BOB GARDNER, REPUBLICAN MEDIA CONSULTANT WHO MADE ADS FOR GEORGE H. BUSH, BOB DOLE, AND GERALD FORD: This is great stuff. You‘ve had nine people beating up Pres. Bush for months, and what I‘m glad to see is that he came back positive.  He didn‘t come back with just an anti-Kerry or an anti-Democrat message.  I think it puts him above the fray.  It makes him presidential.  I think it‘s going to improve his numbers. 

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, ‘HARDBALL’: It reminds me of one of those brilliant G.E. ads you see on Sunday morning, especially, maybe the one where the geeky guy meets the beautiful model from Latin America.  Only in this case, the president meets Laura Bush.  It looks like Laura Bush was put up there as the running mate. 

STEVE MCMAHON, FORMER DEAN STRATEGIST, AND CREATOR OF DEAN'S ADS: She did look great, and I think the President actually might be better off if she were the running mate, rather than the running mate he has.  They were beautiful ads.  They were well done.

I guess it‘s official, we‘ve now gone from the selling of the presidency to the selling of the president.  They‘re beautiful ads, but it was interesting: It also points out his Achilles‘ heel, the economy and job losses, and people who are out of work and looking for work.  You could actually make the case that it raises more questions than it answers.  “He knows what we need to do, he knows what we need to do, he knows what we need to do,” says the ad.   But, yet, people might legitimately wonder, you‘ve been president for 3 ½ years now, why haven‘t you done it?

RICK DAVIS, SEN. JOHN MCCAIN‘S 2000 CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN:  I think they played exactly the strategy he needs to have.  Two months of Democratic attacks, relentless attacks, and a Republican Party that‘s questioning some of the government spending responsibilities...  and all of a sudden the base gets a little softer.  These folks, 90 percent Republicans, have supported this guy for years in his presidency, and now all of a sudden his numbers tick down. 

What does he do?  Go back to the base. I think he‘s saying, “Trust me, I‘m a leader.  I can make these decisions.” 

What you’re seeing is the first phase: "I can paint a picture of the country as we know it.  It‘s a wonderful place to live in.  We‘ve got jobs that are growing.  We‘ve got an economy that‘s growing." And this answers the question, how will George Bush deal with the jobs as a part of the economy? 

And he says it right here in the ad:  The economy is growing, and sooner or later that is going to bring jobs to the American public. 

Video: Bush ad says America 'safer, stronger' Ad 2: “Safer, Stronger”

MATTHEWS:  I wonder, is that an ad that basically reminds us that things may not be better off than they were four years ago, but that they could be worse?

GARDNER:  That‘s exactly right.  President Bush didn‘t take credit for everything  good that‘s happened.  There‘s more to do, and he‘s on the right track there.  I think it‘s terrific. 

MCMAHON: They‘re all aimed at white men.  It‘s the administration for white men that‘s now running a campaign to white men.  There‘s no question he‘s going back to his base.   The messages are messages that would appeal more to his base than to, say, Senator Kerry‘s base or swing voters. 

GARDNER:  I don‘t agree.  I think they‘re after women, as well.  They‘re very soft.  They‘ve got good music.  Laura is in them.  I don‘t think they‘re just aimed at proverbial white men. 

Video: Bush's leadership theme of new video ad Ad 3: “Tested”

DAVIS:  This will be the controversial ad.  Pictures of 9/11?  Everybody‘s going to talk about it.  How will the administration use 9/11?  Well, you just saw the first one.  It was very subtle, very soft, but again, Bush says “I was a leader.  I was tested.  I rose to the occasion.  And in the future, if we‘re ever threatened again, you‘re going to want me in the Oval Office.”

MATTHEWS:  It seems like they didn‘t push any politics, much less any policies in this-- but faith, family, sacrifice, and values. 

GARDNER:  Well, this is kind of a 2004 version of “Morning in America,” and it was soft, subtle.   Even though the media buy initially may be looking at NASCAR people, that this is the kind of thing that will be able to appeal across the board, and it can run everywhere.  They‘re not going to have to make separate ads for separate cable channels. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m going to point out the crazy uncle in the attic or aunt in the attic they don‘t talk about in these ads.  The things don‘t discuss certain things: No mention of Cheney, no mention of Iraq, no mention of tax cuts.  Interesting, the rough edges are not in these ads, and that‘s why they‘re good ads. 

'Hardball with Chris Matthews' airs weeknights, 7 p.m. ET on MSNBC.


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