Last updated: September 11, 2008 - 8:35am
When Democrats turned their attention to national security themes at their nominating convention last month, Sen. John McCain's campaign was ready. In a withering TV commercial called "Tiny," McCain claimed that Sen. Barack Obama had called Iran a "tiny" country that "doesn't pose a serious threat." As reporters scrambled to vet the claims -- which, it reportedly turned out, distorted Obama's comments -- few noticed something curious about the commercial itself: "Tiny" appeared almost nowhere on the air except in news accounts. Since introducing the much-discussed commercial two weeks ago, in fact, McCain's campaign has bought airtime for it just 10 times. The McCain ad, in other words, wasn't really much of an ad at all. In political parlance, "Tiny" was a "vapor," or "ghost," ad. The goal of such spots is to stir up news-media interest rather than to reach voters directly through the purchase of expensive TV time.
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