- The Washington Times - Monday, October 9, 2000

LOS ANGELES "I'm going to win California I am, I am," George W. Bush exclaimed recently on a national television program taped here.

But when they look at their television screens, most Californians don't see signs of the sort of determined effort the Republican presidential candidate says he is making here.

Through the third week of September, the Bush campaign and the Republican Party had spent just $1.1 million on television commercials in California, barely enough to give one spot substantial airing for half a week in a state featuring three of the nation's top 10 media markets.

Meanwhile, Vice President Al Gore and the Democratic Party had spent even less: nothing. The Bush campaign this weekend said it will change some of this, promising to spend at least $1 million a day in the state on advertising. Democrats insist that's too little, too late, and some analysts agree.

"It's just a feint to force Gore to divert money to California," said Gary Jacobson, political science professor at University of California at San Diego. "It's hard to take this as a serious attempt to win the state when it's less than one-eighth of what candidates spend."

Combined with the absence of any TV ads so far in the Senate campaign pitting incumbent Democrat Dianne Feinstein against Republican Rep. Tom Campbell, the lack of presidential spending until now means that Californians have seen almost no political advertising since the state's March 6 primary election.

In the presidential race, the reason is clear for this unusual phenomenon in a state whose size has made television a key campaign tactic since the 1960s: Mr. Gore has led by at least eight points in every state poll taken since the Democratic convention ended in mid-August.

Both candidates and their parties are unhesitatingly pouring large sums of cash into states they consider battlegrounds.

By mid-September, Mr. Gore and the Democrats had spent $6.5 million on advertising in Florida, against $3.2 million for Mr. Bush and the GOP. In Pennsylvania, Republican spending topped the Democrats by $7.7 million to $6.5 million. The two camps had spent a combined $11 million in Ohio and another $7.6 million in Michigan. They even spent $1.5 million in New Mexico and almost $6 million in Washington state.

But here in the nation's largest state, neither Mr. Bush nor Mr. Gore has spent a penny on advertising since the primary. The only spending has been by the California Republican Party, which is running a few ads on stations in the relatively small markets of Sacramento, Fresno, Bakersfield and San Luis Obispo, and has bought some time on cable outlets in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego.

"He says he's going to win California, but I have yet to see one Bush ad," said Allan Hoffenblum, a longtime Republican consultant. "Whattaya call it, the non-campaign?"

Both major candidates have raised many millions of dollars in California but choose to spend it elsewhere. Mr. Bush raised more than $2 million for his party during a two-day California swing last week, capped by his prediction to cable TV host Larry King.

The candidates' lack of spending extends to all sorts of TV advertising. One example: Even though he has made a large-scale in-person pitch to Hispanic groups in California, Mr. Bush had run no Spanish-language ads in the state as of Oct. 1. Such commercials were running in other states with large Latino populations, including New Mexico and Florida.

One possible reason: While polls last spring indicated Mr. Bush might cut strongly into the usual Democratic margin among California Hispanics, new surveys show his effort so far has drawn little response. A San Francisco Examiner survey last week found Mr. Bush at just 21 percent among California's likely Latino voters, 1 percent less than they gave Republican Bob Dole four years ago.

"It really is remarkable," said S. Jay Berman, a mass-media professor at California State University at Fullerton. "Bush says he'll fight it out to the end in California, unlike his father in 1992 and Bob Dole in 1996, but he's spending far less so far than either of them. The whole state of California should be furious.

"Both of these guys are ignoring 12 percent of the American population. They come here and see a few people and raise a few million on each visit and then they spend it everywhere else."

Meanwhile, California Democrats say they don't blame their candidate a bit for doing all his spending elsewhere.

"I don't think Gore feels California is a marginal state," said Joseph Cerrell, a longtime Democratic campaign manager. "We want him to spend the money in marginal states because we want him to win."

But California Republicans are not so sanguine.

"If we're going to win some of the swing congressional races here, seats we probably need to hold to keep control of the House, we need a strong candidate at the top of the ticket," said one state GOP official who did not want to be identified. "Bush isn't giving us that. If we lose the House because of the races here, he'll get a lot of the blame."

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