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Playing the terrorism card

The former New York mayor and GOP presidential candidate has returned to what was once considered the bedrock of his campaign -- his leadership in fighting terrorism
/ Source: National Journal

While much of the political world's attention has been myopically focused on the state of Iowa, Rudy Giuliani was conspicuously absent from the Hawkeye State this week. With a renewed reliance on his strategy of capturing wins in the Florida and Feb. 5 primaries, the Republican presidential candidate returned to what was once considered the bedrock of his campaign -- his leadership in fighting terrorism -- in a new ad airing nationally on cable.

The current turmoil brewing in volatile regions in the Middle East and Asia is making national security one of the top issues in the '08 race. In the wake of the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto last week and newly released video footage of Osama bin Laden, Giuliani seems to be banking on a return to security issues in his risky national campaign strategy.

Opening with a montage of riots and violence, the ad paints a grim picture of "hate without boundaries" and "a religion betrayed." As the announcer warns of "a nuclear power in chaos" and "madmen bent on creating it," a photo of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appears on the screen. The ad, which debuted just one week after her death, also features footage of Bhutto.

CBS News reports that, in his initial response to Bhutto's death, Giuliani said, "It should not be viewed in a political light.... I don't think that would be the most appropriate thing right now to talk about." Giuliani campaign spokeswoman Maria Comella defended the use of the slain leader's image in the ad, telling CBS "that the 'right now' part of [Giuliani's] statement is the most noteworthy, and that the mayor's intention was to stress that it should not be politicized 'that day'."

NBC News/National Journal reporter Matthew E. Berger notes that the spot also "paints a haunting picture of terrorism in more than one language," using an Arabic chant in the background that translates to, "Instead of me, you carried a bomb in your hands. My love will not be merely words. I am following in Mommy's footsteps."

"In a world where the next crisis is a moment away, America needs a leader who's ready," the ad concludes. Giuliani appears briefly on-screen at the close, which features his new slogan: "Tested. Ready. Now." Slated to run nationally on FOX News as well as in Florida and New Hampshire, the ad was released on Wednesday -- the same day Giuliani unveiled his plan to double U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

A rumble brews in the Granite State
The long, hard slog for votes in Iowa has barely ended, but the candidates are already shifting their attention to New Hampshire, which on the Republican side is quickly shaping up to be a heated contest between and .

Once counted out, McCain has in recent months surged to second place in New Hampshire, and he leads the GOP field in one new national survey [PDF]. A first-place showing in New Hampshire could make the Arizona senator, who tied for third in Iowa, the "comeback kid" of the GOP race, and that possibility has already made him a prime target for Romney.

Having already released spots criticizing McCain's positions on immigration and taxes, Romney's latest ad features interviews with New Hampshire residents who praise the Vietnam veteran's service to his country, but go on to say that McCain has had his chance in Washington to fix immigration and taxes, but has failed. The ad does not mention Romney's own positions on issues.

Never one to back down from a fight, McCain has responded to Romney's attacks with two TV ads of his own. "You know, I find it ironic Mitt Romney would attack me on the issue of immigration," the Arizona senator says in one spot, turning his rival's own words against him. "This is the same Mitt Romney who called my plan 'reasonable.'"

On the campaign trail, McCain has lashed out against the Romney campaign's attacks on his record and Huckabee's. In congratulating Huckabee on his win Thursday night, McCain said the lesson of Iowa was that "negative campaigns don't work." But while he hasn't purchased any airtime for negative ads, the senator has unleashed direct attacks against Romney on the Web, where a 30-second video highlights the former Massachusetts governor's recent assertion that "a president is not a foreign policy expert."