Published on Wednesday, October 18, 2000 in the Los Angeles Times
Gore Invokes Reagan in Coming Ad Blitz
Democrat allies himself with the conservative icon's defense policies, a move analysts see as risky
by Jeff Leeds
With time running short, Al Gore is mounting a new advertising
blitz straddling two divergent political philosophies using the economic
record of Bill Clinton and the defense policies of Ronald Reagan.
An ad expected to be released today says Gore, as a member of Congress, "worked with President Reagan to modernize our ballistic missile forces." In another spot, Gore tells viewers "You know, for the last eight years, we've had the strongest economy in all of American history."
Particularly striking is Gore's invocation of the conservative former Republican president, whose plans to build a new long-range nuclear missile in 1983 won Gore's support in Congress.
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, said it is highly unusual for a candidate to invoke another party's leader in such a complimentary way. She said the new ad risks reinforcing a traditional public view that Republicans are stronger on foreign policy.
"Ronald Reagan is remembered through very rose-colored glasses," she said.
Republican officials were also surprised at the reference. "Ronald Reagan is an icon," said Terry Holt, a spokesman for the GOP. "He's viewed as a world leader and identified with the best of the Republican Party. Ronald Reagan was who he was, whatever the criticism, and Al Gore is exactly the opposite."
A Gore official defended the Reagan reference, saying it was designed to spotlight the vice president's record of bipartisanship.
The ad was also part of a national blitz the Gore campaign launched Tuesday, spending an estimated $5 million in the coming week.
Some of the ads are tailored to specific states. In one ad slated to run in Gore's home state of Tennessee, where he is fighting an unexpectedly close race, an announcer praises "Tennessee's Al Gore." In another ad running in Nevada, an announcer says a Bush administration would hasten the arrival of a nuclear waste dump in the state.
Gore's stepped-up air assault comes as a lack of finances is forcing his party to lower its profile on the airwaves. During the 10 days ending Oct. 11, the GOP outspent the Democratic Party on television ads by about $4 million to $749,240, according to Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks spending in the largest 75 media markets.
But the GOP's edge in airing ads funded partly with controversial soft-money donations was erased by $3.65 million in TV ads purchased by independent Democratic-allied groups during the period from Oct. 2 to Oct. 11.
For many of the independent groups backing the vice president, this week essentially will mark their heaviest advertising of the campaign. The organizations say they are airing their commercials late enough in the race to hit voters at a time when they are paying attention but early enough that they can be assured of securing air time.
"We're peaking right now," said Daniel Weiss, political director of the Sierra Club, which is spending about $2 million on TV ads criticizing Bush's environmental record. The group spent more than $498,000 in the 10-day period and has plans to air Spanish-language ads in Florida and New Mexico, where Bush is also running commercials in Spanish.
Planned Parenthood, which supports abortion rights, spent about $2.8 million in the 10 days before Oct. 11, more than the Democratic Party itself during that period, according to the campaign media analysis data.
Nina Miller, director of the group's political arm, said the organization will have spent about $7 million on the ad buy, which includes three ads blasting Bush's stance on abortion. The ads will rotate in eight pivotal states, airing during such programs as "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" and on cable channels such as Lifetime and VH-1.
Gore is also receiving support in ads from Handgun Control, which spent about $353,950 during the two-week period, and the AFL-CIO, which spent about $239,000 at the close of September.
Ads by such independent organizations cannot be coordinated with the candidates' campaigns under federal election regulations. Leaders of the groups said they placed their ads where public polls and their own research suggest they could most aid their candidate.
On the Republican side, a pharmaceutical industry-funded organization, Citizens for Better Medicare, has spent more than $34 million on ads attacking the White House but not Gore by name.
This week, the National Rifle Assn. went on the air with a new ad in which NRA chief Charlton Heston attacks Gore. NRA officials say their budget for political activities this year will be more than $15 million, but so far the group has only spent about $250,000 on TV ads, according to independent ad trackers. NRA strategists said the ads will run in eight states but declined to say how much they were spending.
Holt said groups normally associated with the Republican Party "are generally more grass-roots driven." The independent spending by Gore allies, he said, means that "they're throwing money at a problem but the effect is there's a less coherent message coming from their campaign overall."
Copyright 2000 Los Angeles Times