On the morning that Senator John Kerry (D-MA) announced that he had chosen Senator John Edwards (D-NC) to be his vice presidential running mate, the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign unveiled a new ad, titled "First Choice," which, according to a Bush-Cheney '04 campaign press release, "features John Kerry's first choice for a vice presidential running mate, United States Senator John McCain" (R-AZ).
On CNN Live, CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux seemed to conflate the Bush-Cheney campaign spin with her own reporting, saying that McCain was "Kerry's first pick" and that he "rejected that invitation" to join the ticket. From the July 6 edition of CNN Live:
MALVEAUX: [T]he [President George W.] Bush camp, of course, has been preparing for this moment, this announcement, for some time, really launching a preemptive strike. All you have to do is think of Republican Senator John McCain. He is Kerry's, or was Kerry's first pick, rather. He was courted to become part of a bipartisan ticket. He rejected that invitation and shortly afterwards appeared with President Bush, campaigning with him just a couple of weeks ago. Now, the Bush campaign is using that footage in a latest campaign ad that is set to launch as soon as this vice-presidential announcement is made, or at least shortly afterwards. The point of that ad, of course, is simply a reminder to voters that McCain is a moderate, he's a maverick, he appeals to swing voters, and he's with our guy.
MALVEAUX: The script that we have here, it was from the -- it was just a couple weeks ago in Nevada, this is where Senator McCain was actually introducing President Bush when he went on the campaign trail with him -- this, shortly after he rejected Kerry's overtures to be his running mate. ... So the message here, of course, and from that campaign is, "Look, we believe that Edwards is a flip-flop decision, is a second choice." The first choice here, the one that many voters they believe are behind, is standing with President Bush.
In fact, as the Associated Press reported in June, McCain's chief of staff, Mark Salter, had said, ''Senator McCain categorically states that he has not been offered the vice presidency by anyone." If there was no offer, no offer could have been rejected.
Also on FOX News Channel, news correspondent Molly Henneberg reported that McCain "reportedly was Kerry's first choice" and that "McCain said 'no.'" From the July 6 edition of FOX News Channel's FOX News Live:
HENNEBERG: The Bush-Cheney '04 campaign also unveiled a new ad today that shows President Bush with Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, the ad is called "First Choice" because McCain reportedly was Kerry's first choice for the vice presidential slot. ... Shortly after John McCain said "no" to a Kerry-McCain ticket, he appeared with President Bush at an event in Fort Lewis, Washington, last month, and part of his introduction of the president then is featured in the "First Choice" ad, now. ... And again, that ad is being called the "First Choice" ad. Taking a little dig at the Kerry-Edwards ticket, reminding voters that John McCain was Kerr-- apparently, was Kerry's first choice for his vice presidential running mate, but McCain is supporting President Bush.
On the network's morning show, FOX & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy closely echoed an RNC press release, also from July 6, that stated, "John Kerry was against John Edwards before he was for him." From Doocy's interview with Fred Barnes (Weekly Standard executive editor, FOX News Channel Beltway Boys co-host, and FOX News Channel regular contributor) on the July 6 edition of FOX News Channel's FOX & Friends:
DOOCY: Just crossing on the wires, Bush-Cheney '04 has announced the release of the campaign's newest TV commercial, which will feature John Kerry's first choice for a vice presidential running mate: John McCain.
BARNES: That is a coup. That --
DOOCY: That is a coup. Is that -- is that just further gonna paint Mr. Kerry -- what they've tried to do -- as a flip-flopper? He wanted McCain, didn't get McCain, wound up with Edwards?
BARNES: Well, I've, you know they're gonna portray him as that anyway.
MSNBC reported the story differently, noting that Republicans are pushing the claim that McCain was Kerry's first choice. On the July 6 edition of MSNBC News Live, Norah O'Donnell (MSNBC and NBC News political correspondent); Chris Jansing (MSNBC anchor and NBC News correspondent); and Carl Rochelle (NBC News correspondent) reported:
O'DONNELL: The immediate response from the president's campaign will be to release a new television ad featuring the very popular Republican Senator John McCain, who Republicans claim was Senator Kerry's first choice as vice president.
JANSING: He [Edwards] was the number-two choice for Al Gore, now the number-one choice, of course, for John Kerry.
ROCHELLE: They [Republicans] are saying that John Kerry's first choice was John McCain. ... The White House is expected to make the point that this was John Kerry's first choice.