With his campaign short of cash and lacking in momentum, John Connally tried to put some new life in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination tonight by sponsoring a national television address with borrowed money.
The message of the 60-minute telethon -- called "Freedom from Crisis" -- was the same one the former Texas governor has been delivering across the country for months: namely that the country is in desperate shape domestically and internationally.
The centerpiece of the film was a huge map designed to illustrate Connally's contention that President Carter has allowed the Soviet Union to increase its influence around the world by leaps and bounds. The map showed the Soviets' portrayed in bold red and white colors, gobbling up Afghanistan, South Yemen, Angola and advancing rapidly across the rest of the globe.
This has been Connally's most persistent theme as he moved across this conservative state the last two days with Sen. Strom Thurmond, the popular South Carolina Republican, and former Republican governor James Edwards. "If appeasement were an art form, this adminstration would be the Rembrandts of our age," Connally declared.
The telecast was scheduled to appear in 21 major media markets in the country at a cost of $160,000.
Connally, the only major presidential candidate to refuse to accept federal matching campaign funds, financed the telecast with a $500,000 loan he took out recently. Although his campaign has raised a total of almost $10 million, it began to run short of cash after a weak, fourth-place finish in Iowa precinct caucuses last month. Money problems have forced him to cut back on his television advertising campaign leading up to the crucial March 8 South Carolina primary, the first southern test in the presidential sweepstakes.
Although the film was a broad-scale attack on the Carter administration, it differed markedly from advertising efforts made by Connally's GOP opponents. Republican rivals George Bush, Howard Baker and Ronald Reagan have dealt mainly with imagery in their television ads. Connally's film, however, was almost totally issue-oriented. It showed the silver-haired candidate pointing with a stick at large, colorful graphics, looking much like a very prosperous professor delivering a lecture.
One graphic, for example, showed the Soviet Union having total military personnel, including reservists and civilian workers, of 12 million people; the United States with only 4 million. Another bar graph showed the Soviets increased spending on military research and development 92 percent between 1968 and 1979 while U.S. spending decreased 19 percent.