- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 16, 2002

It's been a successful year for campaign advertisements, with one ad forcing the Republican candidate out of the Montana Senate race and another ridiculing the Democratic Party for pulling its candidate out of the New Jersey Senate race.
Montana state Sen. Mike Taylor quit his Senate race last week against Democratic Sen. Max Baucus because of an ad he said insinuated he was homosexual.
The ad, which shows video of "Beauty Corner," a news segment Mr. Taylor hosted in Colorado in the 1980s, shows Mr. Taylor wearing an open collar, showing chest hair and a gold chain, while applying makeup to a man.
"My opponent has blanketed the airwaves with loathsome distortions of the truth and called it a campaign," Mr. Taylor said when he dropped out. Mr. Taylor has been married for 22 years and has two children.
Mr. Baucus said he had nothing to do with the ad, paid for by the Montana Democratic Party, which has refused to apologize. Party officials say the ad underscored charges that Mr. Taylor abused a student loan program when he owned a chain of hair salons and trained stylists.
Among dozens of routine ads featuring trained dogs, parodying the MasterCard "Some things money can't buy" commercials, and depicting one candidate and his family saying grace before a meal, the Montana ad made political history.
"That is the only ad I can remember that finished an election," said Michael McKenna, a Republican pollster based in Washington, while Ron Faucheux, editor of Campaigns and Elections magazine, called it "the most brutal spot" he has seen in this election.
Republicans have fired back in New Jersey with their own biting ad about Democrats switching candidates. After former Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg took incumbent Sen. Robert G. Torricelli's place on the ballot, the state Republican Party responded with an ad accusing Democrats of teaching children the lesson that quitting is acceptable.
The ad shows a boy losing in basketball to his father. The boy throws up his hands and walks away from the game, proclaiming, "Aw, I'm losing. I quit. Let Frank Lautenberg play for me Torricelli can quit, I can quit. I'm not gonna lose."
One thing stands out about those two ads and most of the others on the airwaves so far this election season they're not about Iraq.
"There's just simply not a lot of ads on Iraq, national security and 9-11 barely measurable percents" of all ads being run, said professor Ken Goldstein, who runs the Wisconsin Advertising Project at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Instead, he said, both Republican and Democratic campaigns are focused on "the usual suspects: Social Security, taxes and health care."
Part of the reason, he said, is that competitive races have the most ads, and in most competitive races this year both candidates support President Bush on Iraq.
Still, Iraq has popped up. A Republican ad in South Dakota shows Saddam Hussein and links that to Democratic incumbent Sen. Tim Johnson's votes against a missile-defense system.
In Georgia, the Republican Party is running an ad featuring pictures of both Osama bin Laden and Saddam, and accusing incumbent Democratic Sen. Max Cleland of voting against Mr. Bush 11 times on the president's proposed Department of Homeland Security.
Mr. Cleland responded indignantly, calling the ad a "most vicious exploitation of a national tragedy."
Still, the Georgia and South Dakota ads focus on judgment in casting votes, and do not suggest the senators are unpatriotic, which Mr. Faucheux called "a delicate balance."
"As long as Republicans kept the attack on judgment and priority, as opposed to patriotism, they can do well. If the attacks become too heavy-handed and the cross the line and question people's patriotism, I think it will backfire," he said.
On another front, Democrats have had more success in getting Republican ads pulled off the air for inaccuracies or for being out of bounds. Under Federal Election Commission rules candidates' ads cannot be pulled from the air, but those of political parties or interest groups can.
Republican ads for House candidates have been pulled, or the party has revamped ads, in Pennsylvania, Iowa, Texas and New Jersey. Also, the Republican candidate for South Dakota's lone House seat asked the National Republican Congressional Committee to pull an ad attacking his opponent.
Democratic Party-backed ads for House candidates have been pulled or altered in West Virginia and Indiana.
Both parties have had to pull or adjust ads in North Carolina's Senate race. Meanwhile, AFL-CIO ads have been pulled or altered in a handful of other congressional districts.


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