Texas Gov. George W. Bush hit the airwaves yesterday with four television spots touting his record on tax cuts and education and promising an end to "mud throwing and name calling."
The first ads by the Republican presidential front-runner, airing in Iowa and New Hampshire, recycle applause lines from Bush's stump speech and end with the slogan "a fresh start." Bush also released a 60-second Iowa radio spot, recorded in Spanish, that touts "the beginning of a new day for Latinos" and describes Bush as "a family man."
The modestly funded media campaign comes as a New Research 2000 poll showed Bush leading Arizona Sen. John McCain in New Hampshire by 39 percent to 27 percent, a drop in Bush's margin of 23 points since August. Nationally, a Newsweek survey also showed some slippage, with Bush leading Vice President Gore by 49 percent to 40 percent and besting Democrat Bill Bradley by 47 percent to 42 percent. Bush had held double-digit leads over both.
The ads' most striking feature is that with the exception of advocating tax cuts, they contain no hard-line GOP rhetoric against government, stressing instead what government can accomplish in education and vowing to preserve Medicare.
In one 30-second commercial, Bush, wearing a purple shirt, vows to run a positive campaign. In an apparent reference to President Clinton, he says: "I believe there's a lot of cynicism today in America because of broken promises. . . . I believe oftentimes campaigns resort to mud throwing and name calling. And Americans are sick of that kind of campaigning."
In another ad, the candidate says "that government should do a few things and do them well. My top priorities will be to preserve Social Security and Medicare and to strengthen education and our military." Beyond that, he says, "we should pass money back to the taxpayers," noting that he slashed taxes in Texas.
Bush backs school vouchers in an education ad, saying he "will give states and local school districts more authority and flexibility. . . . I will challenge failure with charters and choice. And I will change Head Start to teach our youngest children phonics and reading." The fourth ad provides highlights from Bush's gubernatorial record.