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THE NATION

Partisan Swipes Traded by E-Mail

March 20, 2004|Nick Anderson | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Republicans likened John F. Kerry to the comic movie character Austin Powers on Friday in a short video e-mailed to GOP partisans that describes the presumed Democratic presidential candidate as an "international man of mystery."

For their part, Democrats circulated an e-mail to their supporters that uses a cartoon format to criticize President Bush for allowing the federal budget deficit to balloon.

The e-mails sent by the Republican and Democratic national committees showed how the two parties are searching this year for fresh ways to communicate with activists and attract attention to their messages at low expense.

Also Friday, the Republican National Committee began placing online advertisements on selected websites that attacked Kerry's vote last year against an $87-billion bill to fund military operations and reconstruction of Afghanistan and Iraq. Kerry supported an alternative version of the bill that would have raised taxes on the wealthiest Americans to help pay for the spending bill.

The RNC's "Austin Powers"-based spoof of Kerry sought to capitalize on controversy about his recent assertion that unnamed leaders abroad are rooting for the Massachusetts senator to defeat President Bush.

It features an image of Kerry playing the guitar while a voice imitating the Austin Powers character made famous by comedian Mike Myers begins a narrative: "Allow myself to introduce ... myself."

The video then plays snippets of Kerry on television discussing his contacts with prominent foreigners but declining to name them. "Who are you, honestly?" a voice asks.

The RNC said the one-minute video was sent to 400,000 GOP activists.

The Democratic National Committee said that nearly 2 million of its supporters received its cartoon. It depicts the White House, Bush and a red balloon -- representing the deficit -- inflating and popping on the White House grounds.

A narrator says Bush's assertion that he wants to balance the budget "sounds like a lot of hot air," and accuses the president of shortchanging funding for education, job training and other programs.

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