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The stuff campaigns (and movies) are made of

Fred Thompson's latest TV ads seek to inform, or in some cases remind, voters of the events that initially propelled him to the national spotlight .
/ Source: National Journal

's latest TV ads seek to inform, or in some cases remind, voters of the events that initially propelled the former Tennessee senator to the national spotlight over 30 years ago, as he continues to fight off the perception that he has been lazy in his bid for the GOP nomination.

One new TV ad introduces Iowa voters to Marie Ragghianti, the former chair of Tennessee's Board of Pardons and Parole, who was threatened and fired after she blew the whistle on corruption in the governor's office. In the ad, Ragghianti says she turned to Thompson to represent her in the case against former Democratic Gov. Ray Blanton. The plotline may seem familiar to moviegoers: Ragghianti's story was adapted for the big screen in the 1985 film, "Marie." Thompson played himself in the movie, which launched his acting career. The ad makes no mention of the story's Hollywood fame but takes note of Thompson's real-life role in the controversy.

A second ad, "Service," recounts some of Thompson's other accomplishments in the legal and legislative arena. Blending photos and video, the spot highlights Thompson's role in the Watergate hearings, the Blanton scandal and now-Chief Justice John Roberts' Senate confirmation hearings. Viewers are also reminded of his legislative record, as the ad claims he voted pro-life and in favor of tax cuts.

Neither of the ads expound on Thompson's policy proposals, which he's been busy unveiling on the campaign trail. Instead, both focus on Thompson's character and conservatism, just as his first TV ad did.

The 30-second spots are airing only in Iowa, where Thompson is averaging a distant fourth in the polls as former Massachusetts Gov. and former Arkansas Gov. have become the David vs. Goliath story. While many speculate Thompson's leaning on a Southern strategy, he continues to poll at third place in South Carolina, where he has yet to expand upon his debut ad buy.

An edgy Edwards
As CBS News recently pointed out, Democratic candidate has taken a decidedly more aggressive stance in the 2008 presidential primary race than he did in 2004. With its two new TV ads, the Edwards campaign said in a press release that it wants to prove the former North Carolina senator is "the one candidate the American people can trust to take on the corrupt system in Washington and stand up and fight for America's working families."

Edwards' third TV ad airing in South Carolina echoes the native-son message he trumpeted in previous spots. Reminding South Carolinians once again that his father worked in the mills there, Edwards says he's "running for president to do what I've always done -- fight for people like the ones I grew up with against the powerful forces that have corrupted Washington."

Meanwhile, another new spot released in Iowa focuses on what the Edwards campaign has consistently referred to as the "great moral test of our generation" -- ensuring that today's parents are able to pass down a better life to tomorrow's children. "If we're not going to do it," he says in the ad, "we're going to have to be willing to look our children in the eye and say we're going to leave this mess for you." The ad does not clarify exactly which "mess" Edwards is referring to.

Drawing a line on education
For months now, Democratic candidate has been lodged in fourth place in Iowa, despite having pushed his foreign policy experience and aggressively differentiating himself from the trio of Democratic front-runners on the issue of Iraq. With the caucuses fast approaching and the polls holding steady, the Richardson campaign is looking now to turn the conversation back to kitchen-table issues with a new ad in the Hawkeye State highlighting the New Mexico governor's record on education and his plan to improve America's schools.

Elaborating on a previous campaign pledge to "get rid of No Child Left Behind," the new spot lists Richardson's education proposals, such as a minimum wage for teachers and pre-K schooling for all children. By claiming that "only Bill Richardson has a bold plan for our schools," the campaign seeks to distinguish him from his opponents on domestic issues, while also reminding voters of Richardson's experience holding an executive office -- something few of his opponents can boast.