The radio ads begin with a rapidly escalating "drip . . . drip . . . drip" that an announcer describes as the flow of red ink that has deluged Washington since Ronald Reagan became president.
"Today the red ink flows even faster," the announcer continues as the sound in the background gets louder and louder. "For the fiscal year now ending, the deficit is $200 billion and rising. This Republican administration has already taken us further into the red than all previous administrations in our history."
On that note, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee yesterday announced plans to commemorate today's midnight windup of fiscal 1983 with an assault on President Reagan and the Republican Party as the biggest spenders of them all.
Rep. Tony Coelho (D-Calif.), the campaign committee chairman, said the first wave of radio spots, about $5,000 worth, would be targeted at listeners here--"where the players are"--and in the home districts of the two top House Republicans, Minority Leader Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.) and Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.).
Democratic strategists contend that Michel and Lott are both vulnerable, and Coelho, an aide said, has no intention of observing a past Democratic campaign committee nicety of not targeting House Republican leaders for defeat.
"We went after selected seats" that were deemed vulnerable in 1982, Coelho said at a news conference, "and that's what we're going to do again" in 1984.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Charles T. Manatt said part of the reason for the assault on the red-ink issue was the fact that most Americans are not aware of the size of the Reagan deficits.
A national survey just completed for Coelho's committee by pollsters Peter D. Hart and Dotty Lynch showed that, when asked whether budget deficits under Reagan were larger or smaller than under previous administrations, 42 percent said they were bigger. The other 58 percent was unaware of that. In that 58 percent group, 10 percent said the Reagan deficits were smaller, 37 percent said they ware "about the same," and 11 percent had no opinion.
Some might expect the Democrats to be disheartened by this, but Coelho and Manatt described it as an opportunity to do some missionary work and remind the voters at the same time of Reagan's 1980 campaign promise to balance the federal budget by 1983.
"During the 1980 presidential debate, which took place almost three years ago," Coelho recalled, "candidate Reagan said--and I quote--'I have submitted an economic plan . . . and believe that it can provide for a balanced budget in 1983 if not earlier.'"
Instead, Coelho protested, the Republicans built up the biggest deficits ever in order "to give grossly unfair tax cuts to the wealthiest 5 percent of Americans and to carry on an arms buildup, the likes of which we have never seen before."
Democrats hope to "undercut" the GOP on what is usually a strong campaign issue for Republicans, cutting the deficits and balancing the budget, Coelho said. He said the Hart-Lynch poll and other surveys show the Democrats comfortably ahead on other issues that are of even more concern to the voters: unemployment, the nuclear arms race, the elderly and the environment.