Politics & Government

Why did ad company nix Obama's gas pump campaign?

A Barack Obama ad ready to air at Florida gas stations that have pumps topped with TV screens was nixed at the last minute because the advertising company's chief said it reflected poorly on the oil industry, according to the presidential candidate's campaign.

Gas Station TV -- whose slogan is ''It's Always Prime Time at the Pump'' -- was slated to run the 30-second ad for two weeks at pumps in Miami, Tampa and Orlando, according to documentation provided by the Obama campaign.

''The GSTV owners have signed off on this,'' a representative of ABC National Sales wrote in an e-mail.

''But no motorist saw the ad because, as Gas Station TV informed the campaign this afternoon, the company will not run ads that are damaging to oil companies,'' read a statement from the campaign issued Wednesday evening.

The statement, released hours after the Obama camp announced that the ad would begin airing Wednesday, turned what had looked like a major gaffe into a potential public relations victory.

But CEO David Leider of Gas Station TV said in a statement that the spot was never approved and that it was company policy not to run political ads. The ads flash on screens atop the pumps as customers fill up their tanks.

''At a time when presidential campaign ads monopolize prime time, we believe it is important to be able to provide traditional advertisers with a clutter-free environment to showcase their brands and target marketing messages to a captive audience,'' Leider said in the statement.

The Obama campaign's efforts to take its message directly to the pump reflects how the energy crisis has emerged as a top campaign issue. Gas Station TV, which is based in Michigan, runs ads at more than 5,500 screens in more than 400 cities, according to its website.

The ad -- which can still be viewed on television in Florida and other states -- is more critical of McCain than Big Oil, describing him as a Washington insider who voted against alternative energy sources and higher mileage standards. ''Barack Obama. He'll make energy independence an urgent national priority . . . as we break the grip of foreign oil,'' the ad says.

McCain also released a new ad Wednesday that says he will promote ''energy independence.'' Displaying images of Obama's massive rally in Berlin, the ad asks, "Is the biggest celebrity in the world ready to help your family?''

The candidates' energy platforms offer one of the sharpest distinctions of the race. McCain wants to lift the ban on offshore drilling and build 45 more nuclear power plants. Obama advocates spending $150 billion on energy alternatives, requiring cars to be more fuel efficient, and giving families $1,000 ''energy rebates'' by taxing oil companies.

''Both energy plans are solid and should be pursued, but what's wrong is that they are promising more than they can deliver,'' said Jorge R. Pinon, an energy fellow at the University of Miami's Center for Hemispheric Policy. "It's not a quick and easy solution as they promise it will be.''

He also faulted both candidates for not putting more emphasis on conservation.


The proposed gas station ads are yet another sign of Obama's aggressive outreach in Florida, where the latest polls show McCain with a slight lead.

A survey by Public Policy Polling released Wednesday showed McCain ahead by three points, partly due to Democratic support from older white females. Hillary Clinton is slated to campaign for Obama in South Florida on Aug. 21 in an effort to shore up support for the Democratic nominee with her most loyal supporters.

In an effort to reach out to Jewish voters, Sen. Joe Lieberman will host a town hall meeting on McCain's behalf Thursday at Temple Solel in Hollywood.

Gas politics also spilled over into an appearance Wednesday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was in Coral Gables to promote her new book and support congressional candidate Joe Garcia. The Republican Party of Florida encouraged activists to protest her visit and pressure her to call for a vote on expanded oil drilling.

''It is disturbing that while American citizens are paying over four dollars a gallon at the pump, that the Speaker would adjourn congress for five weeks without allowing a vote on possible solutions to the energy crisis,'' said Armando Ibarra of Miami, who said a protest he was planned was not related to the party's call for protests.

In Washington, House Republicans staged a revolt at the Capitol, assailing Pelosi for the recess.

Pelosi's office, however, noted that a majority of House Republicans voted against 13 Democratic proposals to address energy supplies. And her office said that drilling on protected land would not lower gas prices