RALEIGH, N.C. — For weeks, Republicans hammered at Democratic Senate candidate Erskine Bowles for avoiding links to his former boss, President Clinton. Now those attacks will be a little harder to make.
New TV ads airing this week show Bowles, a former White House chief of staff, with his old boss.
The 30-second spots tout Bowles' part in the government's response to the April 19, 1995, bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. They include images of bloodied victims and the bombed-out shell of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, where 168 people were killed.
Both ads include a photo of Bowles sitting across a table from Clinton on Air Force One. A narrator says, "Within hours, the president turns to North Carolina's Erskine Bowles to take charge of our nation's response."
Earlier ads and campaign literature had omitted Clinton's name and image. One even showed the candidate with Republican Sen. Trent Lott, who was Senate majority leader at the time.
"Take all the commercials together, and it's very clear that he is avoiding any association with Bill Clinton," state GOP spokesman Jonathan Jordan said Thursday.
Jordan said that even the latest ad never refers to Clinton by name, and never mentions that Bowles worked directly for him.
"We're saying he's ducking Clinton," Jordan said. "I can't imagine anyone else having a problem with saying the name of the president he worked for."
Bowles spokesman Brad Woodhouse said he was incredulous that the GOP still is trying to make the charge stick.
"Everyone is fully aware that Erskine worked for President Clinton," Woodhouse said. "They are also fully aware that no one has ever been harder on the president, publicly or privately, for his personal failures. He has said it was just plain wrong what the president did."
Bowles is one of nine Democrats seeking the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Jesse Helms, who is retiring after 30 years. Elizabeth Hanford Dole is considered the GOP front-runner.