Political ads are designed to create a feeling of authenticity, the sense that the candidate is a real person who cares about real problems. That's why a radio ad for Vice President Gore features two black women chatting about health care.

"I don't know how I'd pay the bills if my child got sick," one says.

"Thank goodness my daughter has Medicaid, and my mother's got Medicare," the other says before praising Gore.

Sounds real enough, but the women are actresses reading from a script. The Gore camp decided not to use ordinary folks for the commercial playing on African American stations, though listeners have no way of knowing.

"Clearly, they are representative of the experience of many people in this country, which is that Medicaid and Medicare are important programs that have made a difference in people's lives," said Gore spokesman Chris Lehane.

Gina Glantz, former New Jersey senator Bill Bradley's campaign manager, offered a different take: "We'll always take the risk of using real people, speaking from the heart." Bradley is airing a 60-second ad featuring Maureen Drumm, the woman who says that "thanks to Senator Bradley, my third child is alive today." Unlike a previous ad, this one makes clear the circumstances involving Drumm and a Bradley bill mandating 48-hour hospital coverage for new mothers. Glantz said the long-planned ad is not a reaction to criticism of the earlier spot.

Gore continued the real-person theme in a Thanksgiving television spot yesterday in Iowa and New Hampshire, filled with images of him cavorting with wife Tipper. "Twenty-nine years a husband, 26 years a parent, 20 weeks a grandparent, 23 years of challenges. A family's love," the on-screen graphics say. The campaign is also airing a harder-edged ad in which Gore, without mentioning Bradley or his health plan, says: "You can't fix what's wrong with our health care system by getting rid of things that are right."

Bauer Turns to the Tube

Republican Gary Bauer is airing his first two ads of the 2000 campaign today in Iowa.

One spot links Bauer's opposition to abortion to other rights. Kneeling before the Lincoln Memorial with an infant in a stroller, he says: "From freedom of religion to the emancipation of slaves, from civil rights to equal opportunities for women, I won't stop until every one of God's children is welcomed into the world and protected by the law."

The other ad--part of a $130,000 buy--is set in Bauer's childhood home in Newport, Ky. "I'm so proud of my son Gary," his mother begins. Bauer concludes that "Social Security must be saved for my mother's generation and future generations."

Embraceable You

The merry pranksters at the Republican National Committee are trying to make sure Vice President Gore's impeachment day praise of President Clinton haunts him.

Next Tuesday, an RNC billboard picturing Gore and Clinton hugging, with the words "One of our greatest presidents"--Gore's description of Clinton after the House impeachment vote--will go up outside Gore campaign headquarters in Nashville.

Maybe.

Outdoor Systems, the billboard company, informed the RNC Tuesday that it would not put the ad up. Company official Mark Sword left a message on the RNC's voice mail saying: "This would not be a good move for us from a corporate standpoint," according to an RNC transcript. "We are in the middle of being bought out by CBS. And they don't want anything to be drawn into negative attention to possibly get involved with that."

RNC Chairman Jim Nicholson asked the company to reconsider: "How could that image and that message possibly be seen by you, your legal office--or anyone else--as something so 'negative' or 'anti-democratic' that it deserves to be censored?"

Outdoor Systems referred questions to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America. An association spokeswoman said Wednesday that the company would put the sign up and attributed the mix-up to an "internal miscommunication at Outdoor Systems."

When asked if the sign would be an embarrassment, Gore spokesman Chris Lehane responded: "Absolutely not. . . . The most telling item about the sign is that there's nothing positive about the Republicans on it."

Staff writer Terry M. Neal contributed to this report.