GOP Spends Millions on TV Ads Attacking President's Conduct
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 28, 1998; Page A5
One week before Election Day, the cash-rich Republican Party has opened a final $10 million advertising assault on Democrats that for the first time directly attacks President Clinton for his conduct in the Monica S. Lewinsky affair.
The new television commercials, a risky, last-minute gamble by the GOP, urge voters to punish Clinton and his party at the polls on Tuesday.
"In every election, there is a big question to think about. This year, the question is: Should we reward . . . Bill Clinton," says one 30-second ad that began airing last night. "And should we reward not telling the truth?"
In another spot, aimed at suburban voters, one woman says to another: "For seven months, he lied to us."
In the third new ad, the Republicans roll out a video image of Clinton's infamous finger-wagging denial of an extramarital affair.
Paid for by the National Republican Congressional Committee, the anti-Clinton spots will air in about 32 House districts, said committee officials. Viewers in about 30 other House races will see tamer, pro-Republican spots, many of which target vulnerable Democratic incumbents.
The GOP's decision to criticize Clinton differs from the campaign decisions by individual Republican candidates who have largely ignored the scandal. "The president's scandal is on the very top of the minds of the public, particularly as it turns its attention to the election," NRCC spokeswoman Mary Crawford said. "To ignore it is as if you're ignoring a dead horse in the middle of the table." She said the campaign committee tested the ads in focus groups.
With the new advertising campaign, the total advertising spending by the committee this fall comes to about $25 million. The GOP's ability to spend stands in stark contrast to the Democratic Party, which has been saddled with a multimillion-dollar debt since 1997.
Since mid-August, Democrats have waited nervously for a well-financed Republican attack on Clinton's affair with former intern Lewinsky and his subsequent denials.
Polls have consistently shown that voters are disgusted with the controversy and many say it will not influence their vote. But GOP strategists say the Clinton scandal energizes their most loyal supporters.
As a result, the harshest anti-Clinton commercials are airing this week in conservative southern regions where Clinton has faced the strongest opposition. But those are not necessarily the most competitive House races this fall.
Instead, the NRCC has produced a different ad for the hotly contested suburban swing districts. That spot, titled "What did you tell your kids?" targets moderate parents who tell pollsters the Clinton controversy has disrupted family life across America.
About 30 new ads are aimed specifically at down-to-the-wire contests with very specific appeals to voters in those districts. For instance, in Pennsylvania's 15th District, Roy Aflerbach, a Democratic state senator, is attacked on the hot-button issue of taxes.
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