George W. Bush breaks his first campaign ads Oct. 26, and the spots leave little doubt he intends to exploit frustration with both President Clinton and the far-right members of the Republican Party in his bid for the White House.
The four 30-second TV spots to run in Iowa and New Hampshire carry the tagline, "A fresh start." One features Gov. Bush speaking to the camera about why so many voters are exasperated--an apparent reference to President Clinton.
"I believe most people expect the best out of elected officials, and when elected officials disappoint them, it creates a cynical environment," Gov. Bush states in the ad.
In that spot, Gov. Bush promises to avoid negative campaigning and states that "mud-throwing" and "name-calling" turn voters off.
EYES ON IOWA
The race for the Republican Party's nomination officially begins with the Iowa caucuses in January. That is followed in February by the primary in New Hampshire. Gov. Bush leads in polls for both the GOP nod and the general election.
Gov. Bush's initial ad push is a departure from the traditional biographical ads most candidates run in an attempt to introduce themselves to voters. Given his political lineage and the intense media scrutiny so far, his strategists felt the campaign ads could start off defining Gov. Bush as a candidate.
"People know a lot about the Bush family," said Mark McKinnon, president of Maverick Media, Austin, Texas, Gov. Bush's ad shop. "We're building on the brand. People want to know what he'll do as president."
The ads attempt to define Gov. Bush as a tax-cutting, crime-fighting "compassionate conservative" who wants to strengthen the armed forces but also cares strongly about education.
Though targeted toward GOP voters, the ads paint Gov. Bush as more centrist than right-wing.
In one ad, Gov. Bush favors charter schools, school choice and giving local school boards more authority. The ad features a diverse group of children.
"We very intentionally have included a variety of faces of color and ethnicity in these spots, which I believe is highly unusual for Republican primaries," Mr. McKinnon said. "It's an expression of our reaching out to all voters."
Some radio spots for Iowa feature Gov. Bush speaking in Spanish.
Another ad spells out Gov. Bush's plans to preserve Social Security and Medicare, as well as tackling tax reform.
"He's anticipating the attacks to come from [GOP rival] Steve Forbes on taxes," said Larry Sabato, a professor at the University of Virginia and an expert on political ads.
The ads also attempt to portray Gov. Bush, governor of Texas since 1995, as an accomplished chief executive who can win the presidency in November.
Gov. Bush is the fourth presidential candidate to take to the airwaves and easily the most well-funded. Vice President Al Gore has run biographical and issue-oriented TV spots, while Democratic rival former Sen. Bill Bradley has run print ads in Iowa and New Hampshire.
FORBES, MCCAIN ADS
Republican candidate Mr. Forbes has run national cable ads as well as spots in Iowa, New Hampshire and California. Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) began radio ads in New Hampshire last week.
The latest Federal Election Commission filings show Gov. Bush with $37.7 million on hand, while Sen. McCain has $2.1 million and Mr. Forbes, $1.8 million. Sen. Bradley has $10.7 million and Vice President Gore has $10.3 million.
Copyright October 1999, Crain Communications Inc.