By Published on .

Advertiser: Boschwitz for Senate

Agency: Greg Stevens & Co.,

Alexandria, Va.

Rating: 2 stars

In 1990, Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, a Minnesota Republican, found himself dislodged from office by a feisty, unabashedly liberal college professor named Paul Wellstone. The challenger won with a spirited, often hilarious campaign of TV spots outlining his progressive vision and gently tweaking his opponent. One, modeled after the film "Roger & Me," had Wellstone searching all over the state for Boschwitz, who was at the time refusing to debate.

Well, as they say, that was then. This is now.

In the intervening six years have come the Republican revolution and a societywide tilt to the right. "Liberal" is no longer a label; it's an epithet. President Clinton, for example, tolerates being called a pot-smoking, draft-dodging philanderer, but call him a liberal and he comes out swinging.

The whole world has changed-for everybody but Paul Wellstone, who remains unabashed in his liberal principles. But not unbashed. For here comes Boschwitz, running to regain his Senate seat, giving the incumbent a tweaky taste of his own medicine. The setting is a thinly attended ceremony in which Wellstone is supposedly being honored.

"Ladies and gentleman, Paul Wellstone has voted consistently for more taxes, more government and more welfare. So today I am proud to announce that Paul Wellstone is officially a member of the 1967 Liberal Hall of Fame." Whereupon a handful of aging and apparently drug-addled hippies, brandishing signs with such slogans as "Raise taxes," politely applaud.

"Paul Wellstone," the voice-over says. "Embarrassingly liberal, and decades out of touch."

Turnabout is fair play, of course, and yes, the spot is pretty funny. But to what end?

Unlike the funny Wellstone spots of 1990, which made the then-challenger the heroic alternative to Boschwitz's foibles, this spot is just an attack. And while the notion of being out of touch with the electorate may resonate-he's often out there alone, or nearly alone, even among Senate Democrats-attacking liberalness alone will not defeat this incumbent.

Sticks and stones may break some bones, but name-calling only hurts when the victim is offended by the name.

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