- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 26, 2006

National Democrats yesterday ran their first TV ad against Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele’s U.S. Senate bid, prompting an immediate response ad from Mr. Steele.

The ad by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) says Mr. Steele “likes puppies, but he loves President Bush,” showing a picture of Mr. Steele and Mr. Bush in a heart-shaped frame.

Mr. Steele, a Republican, responded by releasing an ad that criticizes his Democratic opponent, Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, for taking money from drug companies and voting against the importation of prescription drugs from Canada.

The DSCC’s mention of puppies refers to an ad Mr. Steele released earlier this month warning of negative campaign ads from “the Washington crowd.”

Saying that he will be accused of “hating puppies,” Mr. Steele says, “For the record, I love puppies,” in the ad.

The Steele campaign’s strategy has been to pre-empt Democratic attacks, which he says were telegraphed in an internal memo released this spring that advised Democrats to turn Mr. Steele “into a typical Republican in the eyes of voters, as opposed to an African-American candidate.”

Mr. Steele is the first black to win statewide office in Maryland.

The DSCC ads had been scheduled to begin airing a month from now and run up to the Nov. 7 general election.

But last week, the DSCC moved up its $1 million ad purchase by one month and presumably will run ads against Mr. Steele for six weeks instead of two weeks.

DSCC spokesman Phil Singer has declined to comment about his group’s “strategic decisions.”

The DSCC ad features playful music to criticize Mr. Steele for supporting the war in Iraq, backing the president’s veto of embryonic stem-cell research and opposing abortion.

In his response ad, Mr. Steele says, “You knew they were coming, nasty ads from the Washington crowd.” He says that one of the “real differences” between himself and Mr. Cardin is that he supports “cheaper medicine from Canada.”

“Congressman Cardin took money from drug companies and voted against cheaper medicine,” Mr. Steele says.

Mr. Cardin’s spokesman responded last night that “Michael Steele has taken more special-interest money in nine years than Ben Cardin has taken in 22 years.

“If Steele is against gifts from lobbyists, then why does he accept them?” said Oren Shur. “He says he wants to be a different kind of senator? This sounds like the same old Washington hypocrisy to me.”

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