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NATIONAL PARTIES TRADE SHOTS TAKE DIFFERENT TACKS TO BACK, HIT CONTRACT WITH AMERICA

By Published on .

WASHINGTON-The Republican and Democratic parties are invoking media strategies as divergent as the choices they will offer voters on Nov. 8.

Today the Republican National Committee, in an innovative media choice, breaks a spread in TV Guide touting the Contract With America that more than 300 GOP lawmakers and candidates signed Sept. 27 on the Capitol steps. The choice of a national magazine is in sharp contrast to the traditional media schedule of political candidates: TV, TV and more TV, augmented by a little radio and more TV.

Taking that traditional road, the Democratic National Committee put $2 million into a two-week, 10-state TV buy with messages that attempt to nationalize the races and the candidates.

Four spots, produced by White House consultants Grunwald, Eskew & Donilon, also focus on the Republican Contract With America. But while the GOP ads boast of the contract's terms-lower taxes, higher defense spending, a balanced budget and limited congressional terms if Republicans win control of the House, the DNC's ads ridicule the contract and its backers for advocating a return to Reagan-era "trickle-down" policies.

The RNC's ad was produced in-house, and the choice of TV Guide as its vehicle was made by Rep. Newt Gingrich (R., Ga.), said Anne Gavin, the committee's press secretary.

The RNC spent about $100,000 for the TV Guide spread, and party officials were keen on the prospects of their medium selection reaching the party's target audience-Mr. and Mrs. America.

Tony Blankley, a spokesman for Rep. Gingrich, said the House minority whip came up with the idea of using non-traditional media.

"We wanted to reach a lot of people in a manner in which the information would be open to them, would have a long shelf life and would reach the American middle class," Mr. Blankley said. "... Those are the people who are our foundation ... but who perhaps don't follow events as closely as we might wish because they're turned off by Washington."

Just as the RNC ads are intended for everyone, the DNC's TV commercials are not.

The DNC's media buy was in only 10 states, which DNC Chairman David Wilhelm declined to identify except to say that a determining factor would be a close senatorial contest. That would suggest the spots will appear in states like Massachusetts, Virginia, California and perhaps Ohio. Spots show GOP congressional candidates signing the contract as threatening background music soars and a voice intones prospects of cuts to Medicare and welfare.

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