Elizabeth Taylor may be a cinema star, but in the world of Virginia television and radio political advertising this year she is just a walk-on compared to Doris Miller.
Doris Miller. She is the wife of Democrat Andrew P. Miller and the sole performer in a 30-second television ad designed to help her husband defeat Republican John W. Warner, who is Taylor's husband.
While Doris Miller stars, TV viewers will barely get a glimpse of Taylor. She appears once walking with Warner at a festive event - an appearance so brief that it tests the ability of the eye and mind to link the candidate with the spouse who, some believe, has played an essential role in his rise as a political contender in Virginia.
Taylor's marital history - Warner is her sixth husband - has made her a controversial political spouse and Doris Miller appears to underscore this controversy in her television performance.
She begins by saying, "Well, I've been married to Andrew Miller for almost 25 years. I know him very well." She goes on to add that he is "hardworking and dedicated" and says he made a lot of "tough-minded decisions" when he was the state's attorney general.
Asked if Taylor's low profile in Warner's media campaign is the result of a calculated decision, Helen Lloyd of Woltz Associates, Inc., a Richmond advertising agency said:
"No, not really. But everyone knows who Elizabeth is. We just want to make sure they know who John is."
A Richmond Times-Dispatch poll published yesterday found that 40 percent of those surveyed thought Taylor is a negative factor for Warner while 37 percent thought she will help him. A month earlier, another poll by the newspaper found that 41 percent thought she would help him and 34 percent thought she would not.
To make sure that Warner is well known, the Republican's campaign is expected to spend at least $200,000 for television and radio advertising time during the last two weeks of the campaign. The Warner television time purchase is believed to be almost identical to that of Republican Gov. John N. Dalton for his candidacy last year, and the Warner radio time is slightly more.
Doris Miller's opportunity to perform may be limited by the fact that the Miller campaign expects to spend less than half as much as Warner's for television and radio time. Miller campaign consultant Allen Clobridge obviously wishes the campaign could afford a bigger TV outlay. In an interview, he called the television buy "lousy."
Warner ads will appear on four Washington area television stations and will be heard on all 13 radio stations in Washington and Northern Virginia. A Miller spokesman said he will spend $22,000 on radio and television in the Washington area during the last week of the race. Details were not available.
While it is obvious that Miller's outlay for Northern Virginia broadcast ads will not approach those of Warner, the Miller campaign also plans to distribute 200,000 new pieces of literature in the Washington suburbs during the last week, raising its brochure total for the area of 700,000.
In general terms, the Miller TV and radio ads stress his record as attorney general and talk about specific proposals he has made on taxation, budget balancing and defense. Warner's ads stress the support he has from conservative and Republican political figures, especially Dalton and former Gov. Mills E. Godwin, and talk in general terms about his approach to government.
Of the many endorsements of Warner cited in the ads, the most interesting is what sounds like an endorsement-by-proxy by Virginia's conservative independent Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr.
In a 60-second radio commercial, Byrd's son, Winchester publisher Thomas T. Byrd, and Godwin, the senator's longtime political ally, deliver the following dialogue:
Godwin: "Tom, one of the strongest reservations I have about Andrew Miller is just how much support he plans to give your father in the United States Senate. Frankly, I just foresee a great incompatibility between Miller and Senator Byrd."
Thomas Byrd: "I know what you mean, Governor Godwin. One reason I'm supporting John Warner so strongly is my personal feeling that he and my father will work well together to help Virginias instead of canceling each other's vote."
Miller, who is trying to woo conservatives back to his party, has shown a healthy regard for Sen. Byrd's potential influence. He admits that he voted for Byrd's recent Democratic opponents, but he stresses that he urged Byrd to continue running as a Democrat in 1970, when he first filed as an independent, and says he tried to persuade Byrd's 1976 Democratic opponent, Elmo R. Zumwait, not to run.
Ads for both candidates stretch credulity now and then.
Godwin assures listeners that Warner, who lives on a 2,000-acre estate in Northern Virginia hunt country, knows the problems of the farmer "first hand."
Miller assures listeners that there would have been no scandals in the General Services Administration if Congress had adopted the "sunset" legislation he supports. Such legislation requires periodic reviews of the need for government programs.