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Bush, Gore Campaigns Take to the Air

Media: The candidates target largely the same votes with a new round of ads. The Democrat focuses on biography; his GOP rival spotlights issues.


Trying to break from a dead heat as they kick off the general election campaign, Al Gore and George W. Bush launched critical television advertising campaigns this week aimed largely at the same swing voters in the same battleground states.

The latest commercial for Gore, the Democratic nominee, tugs at voter heartstrings by profiling his life story. Bush, the GOP nominee, launched two new ads Monday that focus on policy: education and Social Security.

Both campaigns are reportedly spending about $5.5 million to broadcast the ads in the first week, with Gore targeting 17 states and Bush 21. The commercials, which echo themes the candidates outlined in their recent nominating conventions, come at a critical time when the latest polls show the race even or with Gore holding a slight lead.

In Gore's commercial, the vice president evolves from a lanky enlistee in Vietnam into an idealistic young husband and, finally, into a stern senator cleaning up toxic waste and pushing to reform welfare with work requirements and time limits. It ends with a series of policy positions favoring prescription drug coverage for seniors, the integrity of Social Security, school accountability and tax cuts.

It's tag line declares: "Al Gore, married 30 years, father of four, fighting for us."

"The ad gives a sense of his values and the values he would bring to the presidency," said Gore spokesman Douglas Hattaway. "Al Gore is widely known as an effective vice president, but few know about his successful career of fighting special interests for working families."

The spot, which was launched Tuesday, is similar to a biographical ad Gore's campaign has already aired. The 60-second commercial was produced by Squier Knapp Dunn.

Ari Fleischer, Bush's spokesman, disputed the veracity of the new commercial.

"Al Gore feels compelled to run a spot that exaggerates his biography. He exaggerates the role he played in welfare reform, an issue where he stood on the sidelines while others did the work," Fleischer said.

Bush also reached back into his ad archive for this launch. Among the two ads his campaign is airing this week is a spot that premiered in July prior to the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.

The spot, titled "Hard Choices," is based on a theme of sacrifice to save Social Security.

"It's not always popular to say 'Our children can't read,' or 'Social Security needs improving,' or 'We have a budget surplus and a deficit in values,' " Bush says in the ad. "But those are the right things to say."

The ad ends with the phrase: "Now is the time to do the hard things."

And as Bush launched a two-week campaign swing this week highlighting education issues, his campaign premiered an ad Monday that focuses on the issue. It notes the reading problems of fourth-graders in high poverty areas and complains about children facing violence in schools.

"Now is the time to teach all our children to read and renew the promise of America's public schools," Bush says in the ad.

Fleischer said: "Certainly as moms and dads get ready to send their kids to school, what better time to focus on education?"

Both of the Bush ads were produced by Maverick Media.

The Bush and Gore commercials will overlap this week in 17 states--Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

Bush also is advertising in Georgia, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Nevada.

A 30-second version of Gore's ad is running in Iowa.


Times staff writer Jeff Leeds contributed to this story.

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