latimes.com: Bush, Gore Attacks beginning to ad up
Both sides release commercials challenging rival candidates' records
SARASOTA, Florida (Los Angeles Times) -- The presidential campaign became a political war by proxy Monday as both major parties unleashed new ads attacking rival candidates on everything from government spending to the quality of air in Houston.
The Democratic National Committee will broadcast ads in 12 states challenging Texas Gov. George W. Bush's record on such issues as child health care, education, poverty along the U.S.-Mexico border and air pollution, said Joe Andrew, the Democratic National Committee's general chairman.
The Republican National Committee, which has more money to spend than the Democrats, will air ads in 21 states criticizing Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore on spending and education--a response to new ads by Gore criticizing Bush's proposed tax cuts.
The Republican ads represent a marked escalation in spending, to about $4.5 million a week in 21 states compared to the $2.5 million a week it was spending in 17 states.
The candidates themselves had light public agendas Monday as they prepared for Wednesday's debate in Winston-Salem, N.C., the second of three sessions.
Vice President Gore spent the day largely out of public view here at Longboat Key. Bush, the Republican nominee, was similarly sequestered at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.
Joseph I. Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential candidate, spent the day privately observing Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism.
Dick Cheney, Bush's running mate, continued his tour of small cities in key states Monday with visits to Yakima, Wash., and Bend, Ore., where the theme of the day was: "Al Gore is a big spender."
But even on the Cheney tour the tough comments were left to proxies. For the second straight week, former Wyoming Sen. Alan K. Simpson appeared with Cheney, a longtime friend.
"Bush makes it work. Gore makes things up," Simpson said, invoking a line Michigan Gov. John Engler came up with for Cheney to use in the vice presidential debate last week. Cheney didn't use the line.
The bigger focus Monday was on the ad campaigns.
The Democratic ads--which aides said Gore had not seen--attempt to chip away at Bush's claims of successes during the six years he's served as Texas governor, Andrew said.
"Here's the record he's talking about so much," Andrew said in outlining the multi-pronged attack. Avoiding specifics, Andrew said the party would spend "millions of dollars" to buy television advertising in such up-for-grabs states as Washington, Oregon, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri and West Virginia.
"This will multiply what we've done before and turn up the volume," Andrew said. The new ads are in addition to spots being aired in crucial states by the Gore campaign itself.
In Austin, Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett dismissed the Democrats' ads, saying, "There's nothing new in these attacks."
He estimated the ads would cost the Democrats $1.5 million in "a transparent attempt to shift the focus away from a sustained criticism of Al Gore's credibility. They injected personal negative attacks on Gov. George Bush."
Democrats insisted they were merely following the lead of Republicans challenging Gore's credibility.
The new Republican spots, meanwhile, accuse Gore of making spending promises that would eat up the entire anticipated budget surplus.
"Al Gore's deficit-spending plan threatens America's prosperity," one ad contends.
Gore similarly has accused Bush of over-promising, and independent budget analysts say both campaigns are offering numbers that exceed the probable surplus.
The new cycle of attack ads reflects both the political calendar--election day is four weeks from today--and the extreme closeness of the race.
The Democratic ads are tailored in some instances to individual states. In one ad, Houston's smog is superimposed over Seattle and viewers are asked to "take a deep breath" and consider what Bush's environmental plan would mean for them. In addition, the Gore campaign and the Democratic Party are setting up at least two Web sites attacking Bush's record. They also are dispatching Texas supporters on a bus trip from New Orleans north to Wisconsin to draw attention to the state's unsolved problems.
And at the end of the week, Lieberman is to fly into Texas to visit the communities, known as colonias, that have sprung up along the border with Mexico and are considered some of the poorest in the country.
"George W. Bush has not been there even though he is the governor of Texas," Andrew said. "When Sen. Lieberman goes there he will be there one more time than the governor of Texas."
Bartlett said the governor "has been down to the border region several times" but he did not know if Bush had visited the colonias themselves.