Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.), the new Democratic front-runner in Iowa, yesterday began airing two television commercials in the first-in-the-nation caucus state. The spots, which will initially run for three weeks at a cost of $90,000, pose the rhetorical question: "Isn't it time to believe again?"

One ad, unusually long at two minutes, features Simon, sans his insignia bow tie, lounging on the deck of his pond-front home in Makanda, Ill., and reflecting on his career as a crusading newspaper editor and principled politician. "I always face the possibility that stands I take may cost me an election," he says. As he talks, images flash of Simon shaking hands with old people and children, pounding away at an old manual typewriter, and of the young Simon (this time with bow tie) standing up to organized crime.

Former Iowa governor Harold Hughes and Rep. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) offer endorsements, and Simon's wife Jeanne recites his accomplishments and asks: "What more can you want in a president of the United States?"

Another spot runs 30 seconds, featuring the same images and music. A voice-over identifies Simon as an opponent of "the politics of callousness and greed."

"It's a Main Street American story," said media consultant David Axelrod, who made the spots. He added that the two-minute spot, especially, "gives a good feeling for who Paul is and where he comes from. It helps the voters flesh out their picture of him a little bit."