YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Bush to Spend $2 Million on Calif. Ads

Politics: Recent surveys show race tightening here, but Gore camp is confident of victory and has not bought air time. L.A. will be one target of Texan's efforts.


Taking aim at the nation's most populous state 12 days before the election, Texas Gov. George W. Bush's campaign announced it would begin advertising on California's airwaves for the first time since the primaries.

Bush officials said the campaign will spend more than $2 million through election day to purchase air time in at least four major markets, including Los Angeles and San Francisco. Bush's spending is on top of about $3 million expected to be spent by the Republican Party.

"We've said all along that we were here to compete," said Gerald Parsky, chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign's state effort. "I think with a week to go we're really making the ultimate commitment."

The new Bush spending comes after recent polls that suggest the battle for California--a must-win state for Democrats--has tightened. But the surveys also show Al Gore in the lead, and Democrats remain so confident of victory here that they have not purchased any advertising in California.

Bush's targeting of the state's largest and priciest media markets will end his campaign on a distinctly different note from the last two GOP presidential nominees. Both former President Bush and former Sen. Bob Dole considered the state too favorable for Democrats and too expensive for a major ad push.

But Bush's ad buy, despite including expensive prime-time slots on programs such as "Monday Night Football" in Los Angeles next week, still isn't large enough on its own to be considered substantial in a state as large as California.

The $2-million sum, spread over 12 days, is "nothing to sneeze at," said Sheri Sadler Wolf, media director at Target Enterprises, which places ads for GOP clients. "It's not a mediocre buy."

But others questioned whether it was enough for a come-from-behind upset with less than two weeks remaining.

Combined with the Republican Party's spending, the advertising is "approaching seriousness," said Kenneth Goldstein, a professor at the University of Wisconsin who tracks ad spending.

Politics-watchers in California suggested several motives for Bush's advertising, including drawing Gore money away from Florida, a must-win state where the Texas governor is running even or slightly behind.

Among Democrats, some privately grumble that Gov. Gray Davis and his allies are trying to pull Gore--and, more important, Democratic--campaign dollars into the state for their own political reasons.

"You've got a governor who's staking his claim on Proposition 39," said one Democratic strategist, speaking of the school-bond measure on the November ballot. "The 39 campaign needs a good turnout for the Democrats. That has as much to do with what's going on here as anything else."

One Republican strategist said privately that the influx of cash from Bush is aimed more at shoring up local support for GOP congressional candidates. California has roughly half a dozen competitive races that could determine control of the House.

But Sal Russo, a veteran Republican strategist, insisted that Bush's willingness to invest millions in California now indicates a serious effort to win the state.

"The strategy has been apparent for some time," Russo said. "They were trying to get a good handle on 270 electoral votes outside of California and then come in here when they can stretch Gore's resources by opening up new fronts."

The state, with 54 electoral college votes, is critical for Gore, who was leading Bush statewide by 7 percentage points in a Los Angeles Times Poll released this week.

Across the rest of the nation, advertising by the two sides is closely matched. According to the latest tracking, Bush's campaign is spending $7.6 million this week, while the GOP is spending $8 million. Gore's campaign is spending $6.6 million on top of the $4.7 million being spent by the Democratic National Committee.

In California, the ad Bush is broadcasting describes Gore as a proponent of big government. "There's a big difference in philosophy between my opponent and me," he says in the ad. "He trusts government. I trust you."

The Bush campaign also will launch a Spanish-language commercial Monday in Los Angeles. The GOP will be airing its own Spanish-language ad statewide, Bush officials said. And the campaign said it will follow up the advertising pitch with an appearance next week in California by the candidate.

Gore is not scheduled to visit California before the election, but President Clinton will tour the state next Thursday and Friday to rally the Democratic base.

"They are within striking distance," a top Gore strategist conceded. "But it's not going to happen."


Times political writer Mark Z. Barabak contributed to this story.

Los Angeles Times Articles