Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Going Negative? Dole's 3 New Strategists Bring Ads Reputation

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Going Negative? Dole's 3 New Strategists Bring Ads Reputation

Article excerpt

HOURS AFTER Bob Dole ousted two of his top aides, new strategists with a reputation for producing highly negative ads met at Dole's headquarters. The topic was as ominous as it was simple: Can this campaign be saved?

While some advisers continue to have serious private doubts, they publicly insist that they have a new strategy to turn the race around for Dole.

A campaign official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Dole had decided to spend 60 percent of his $62 million in federal campaign funds for television ads, up from an estimated 45 percent. "This will be a very different eight weeks," said John Buckley, Dole's communications chief. "There is a sense that advertising is a critical medium for us to drive the message. We are now in a race with debates coming up, and we are on equal terms (with the Clinton campaign) in advertising dollars." Privately, three of Dole's most senior advisers, in separate interviews, said they had reluctantly concluded that the fate of the election now hinged on President Bill Clinton making a big mistake. "I think this race now comes down to an external event involving Clinton, not something we can do on our own," a senior Dole aide said. While the campaign has publicly repudiated polls showing Clinton with a 21-point lead, a senior official said Dole's most recent private polls gave Clinton a 15-point margin. No candidate in the last 50 years has overcome such a large gap between Labor Day and Election Day. "I was always skeptical of Bill Clinton as a re-election candidate," said Ron Faucheux, editor of Campaigns and Elections magazine. "But now I don't think that Dole's campaign can be saved strategically or tactically. I think for Dole to win, he has to have a lucky break, an international disruption, something that comes from the outside." Such events might include a Whitewater indictment or a personal revelation about Clinton. But so far, to the consternation of Dole aides, the "external" events have favored Clinton. In the last week, for example, the headlines have not been dominated by Dole's message, but instead by Clinton's ordering cruise missiles to be fired into Iraq, Hurricane Fran, Dole's campaign shake-up and Friday's news that the unemployment rate was the lowest in seven years. …

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