President Clinton and Vice President Gore used the Democratic National Convention to warn Bob Dole and the Republicans that tobacco would be a major issue in this fall's campaign.
Tobacco "is very much an issue that the two candidates have different views on," said President Clinton in delivering his acceptance speech Thursday, the fifth speech in two days from the convention podium blasting tobacco ads.
GORE SPEAKS OUT
Mr. Gore devoted a major portion of his speech to describing both his sister's death from tobacco-caused lung cancer and his feelings about the tobacco fight.
"I will pour my heart and soul into the cause of protecting our children from the dangers of smoking," said Mr. Gore. "And that is also why I was intensely proud when President Clinton stood up for American families by standing up to tobacco advertising aimed at getting our children addicted."
A key Clinton campaign adviser said the tobacco theme may again play in Mr. Clinton's advertising as the campaign takes off after Labor Day.
"It was part of the run up. I would think there is a fair chance that, given the way [the Dole campaign has] handled the issue, we will be back there," said Bob Squier, a partner with Squier Knapp Ochs, Washington, and the Clinton campaign's ad executive.
ISSUE AFFECTS OTHER RACES
The presidential campaign's focus on tobacco advertising may be spreading.
David Axelrod, of campaign consultancy Axelrod & Associates, said tobacco is already an issue in one of the congressional races he's handling. It's also an issue in the U.S. Senate campaign in Illinois, where U.S. Rep. Dick Durbin, a Democrat and a tobacco critic, is blasting GOP opponent Al Salvi for taking contributions from tobacco companies. Mr. Durbin gave one of the convention's anti-tobacco ad speeches.
However, some Democratic officials privately expressed concern that tobacco might hurt the party's chances to gain control of the House of Representatives by hindering candidates in tobacco states.
Some delegates from Kentucky attending the convention wore buttons saying "Keep the FDA off the farm," given by tobacco growers.
CAMPAIGN BEGINS IN EARNEST
The campaign's advertising begins in earnest this week as President Clinton and Mr. Dole get $68 million in federal money and can buy TV time at the lowest price.
Ross Perot kicked off his campaign Sept. 1 by buying two half-hours on ABC, for $470,000. The first aired Sunday and the second airs Thursday after "Nightline."
President Clinton's advertising this week is expected to emphasize issues raised in his acceptance speech, while Mr. Dole's is expected to focus on his tax cut proposal.
Still unclear is whether Mr. Dole will try to use character as an issue this week in advertising, to capitalize on the abrupt departure of Clinton aide Dick Morris.
Copyright September 1996 Crain Communications Inc.