- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Democrats' television strategy to paint Republicans as supporting privatization of Social Security hit a snag the last two weeks when stations in North Carolina and West Virginia refused to run the ads.
In West Virginia, TV stations have pulled and are refusing to run ads that say Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, a freshman Republican, did not vote for a measure that would have barred a hypothetical privatization of Social Security.
In announcing its decisions, one of the stations, NBC affiliate WSAZ, said its analysis "found that claim to be false."
And in North Carolina, several stations have pulled ads sponsored by the state Democratic Party that said Republican Senate candidate Elizabeth Dole would "gamble" Social Security money in the stock market. The ad attributed its claim to the Charlotte Observer, which said the claim was distorted.
Democrats have repeatedly said they want to make this year's election a referendum on Social Security and on the president's commission that recommended workers be allowed to invest part of their Social Security contributions.
But Republicans say that election strategy has failed.
"The whole idea about privatizing Social Security was rejected by the West Virginia Broadcasters' Association," said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican and chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, in a briefing with reporters last week.
Thus begins Ad Wars, the 2002 version. Labor Day traditionally marks the finishing run to the November elections, and the beginning of saturation TV ads.
Ads run by the candidates themselves cannot be refused by a TV station, but interest groups' ads can be. Therefore, every election cycle features efforts by the national political committees to try to get the other party's "unfair" ads pulled.
Democrats say they will tweak the Social Security ads' language, and plan to run them. Both parties agree that the word "privatize" rubs voters the wrong way the reason Republicans are fighting so hard against ads that use that word. Democrats are determined to preserve those ads.
"The [West Virginia] ad went back up. We made a few slight changes, and the ad was back up on the air," said Kim Rubey, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, whose focus is the House races.
North Carolina Democrats are now reworking their ad about Mrs. Dole and Social Security for a second time to remove the impression that the Charlotte Observer said her position was a "gamble."
Social Security isn't the only battleground. Republicans are gloating over ads focusing on corporate responsibility being pulled in Indiana, Mississippi and Connecticut.
The Mississippi and Connecticut races pit Republican and Democrat incumbents against each other, and the AFL-CIO sponsored ads trying to link the Republican candidates to legislation that could have resulted in a tax break for Enron.
But Republicans have had their own setback. In Texas some stations are refusing to run a Republican-sponsored ad accusing Rep. Chet Edwards, a six-term Democrat, of voting against a tax-cut bill.
Mr. Edwards' campaign said the ad was pulled after three TV stations decided that it inaccurately portrayed Mr. Edwards, who had voted for a Democratic tax plan that would have delivered most of the same benefits a $600 rebate and aid for retirement savings.
It's not the first problem Republicans have had with ads in that campaign. In a July attempt to boost their candidate, Ramsey Farley, the NRCC portrayed him as a supporter of President Bush's education plan, even though the candidate had criticized part of it.
Ms. Rubey said Republicans also suffered a glitch in New Jersey, where they had an ad running for a few days on cable TV without sound.


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