WHO will raise your taxes? Who will fix the economy? Whom can
you trust? To ask - and answer - those questions for voters, this
year's presidential candidates have been using the mass media in
The approach has been cost-conscious and increasingly
sophisticated, media-watchers say, with more emphasis on TV talk
shows and less on buttons and bumper stickers. The candidates are
now unleashing the bulk of their television advertisements,
including Ross Perot's half-hour ad on CBS last Tuesday. A second
Perot ad airs tomorrow night.
Until this week, TV ads had played a smaller role than they have
in the past, says Kathleen Jamieson, dean of the Annenberg School
of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania.
And that's good, says Clarke Caywood at the Medill School of
Journalism at Northwestern University. "We were relying too much on
a single vehicle. And it was jeopardizing political advertising,"
"People were so angry at political advertising in the last few
elections that it was creating the threat that it would be
regulated, which would be a First Amendment problem. This campaign
is taking the pressure off of political advertising," Mr. Caywood
In the last election, Michael Dukakis's campaign was hurt by an
independently funded ad about Willie Horton, a black convict who
raped a white woman while on furlough from a Massachusetts prison.
The ad was so widely reviled for its racial content that Sig
Rogich, an advertising executive who assisted the Bush campaign and
whom Mr. Bush later made an ambassador, had to deny responsibility
for it at his Senate confirmation hearing.
Last month, Mr. Rogich was pulled from his diplomatic post to
take over as senior media adviser for the troubled Bush campaign
this year, which Caywood says had looked "a little bit like
Dukakis's campaign, which was one of the most pathetic campaigns in
the history of the country in terms of communications."
In the first TV commercial from Rogich, middle-class voters
worry about how Bill Clinton's proposals might affect their taxes.
Mr. Clinton's team quickly responded with an ad of their own that
called Rogich's ad "scary" and "misleading."
Rogich was involved with another memorable anti-Dukakis ad,
which mocked the Bay State governor as he rode in a tank. Does he
have something like that in store for Clinton?
"There's a lot of issues that Bill Clinton has to live with,"
Rogich says. "We probably don't have enough time to put them all on
Craig Sutherland, Texas media coordinator for Clinton, has been
focusing on "George Bush's broken promises." Instead of simply
running national ads, Mr. Sutherland has been taking the same idea
and giving it a local twist. For instance, one ad that aired in
Texas talks of Bush's promise to create 30 million jobs, and says
he's 29 million short. Then it adds that in Texas, 160,000 jobs in
the energy industry have been lost under Bush and Ronald Reagan.
"Essentially, Bill Clinton is trying to create the exact same
arguments that Ronald Reagan used when he ran successfully against
Jimmy Carter," says Tom Hollihan, chairman of the College of
Communications Arts and Sciences at the University of Southern