Borrowing from a 1964 Democratic presidential campaign geographic attack, state Republicans continued their television advertising barrage against Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Charles Schumer by trying to portray him as anti-upstate.
In the latest addition to his television advertising blitz, incumbent Sen. Alfonse D'Amato's campaign criticized votes Schumer took 21 years ago when he served in the State Assembly.
"Liberal Brooklyn Congressman Chuck Schumer doesn't think upstate New York matters," says the ad that began airing across upstate on Tuesday. But like one unveiled last week, the ad will not be shown in New York City, where voters would likely perceive it as a slam against them. Nor does it show the face of D'Amato, whose popularity ratings are still low.
The ad, questioning votes by Schumer on everything from property taxes to gasoline taxes, also repeats a joke Schumer made last year that the "West begins across the Hudson River." It ends with an image of New York City and some surrounding suburbs being sawed off from the rest of the state.
The ad steals, in part, from a 1964 television ad President Lyndon B. Johnson's campaign used against GOP nominee Barry Goldwater. That ad showed a cardboard cut-out of the East Coast being sawed away from the rest of the nation, while an announcer repeats a Goldwater quote about the nation being better off without the Eastern Seaboard.
Yet while the GOP strategy is clearly trying to follow long-time political lessons -- define opponents before they can define themselves -- even non-partisan observers say the party's ad campaign could backfire.
With voters increasingly turned off by the inter-party warfare in Washington over President Clinton's future, observers say those sour feelings could trickle down to the state level -- manifested in even GOP voters turned off by the slew of new Republican ads.
A poll coming out today by Utica pollster John Zogby will show that Americans, following Monday's release of Clinton's taped grand jury testimony, believe the whole affair has gone far enough and that Republicans have other motives than just exposing the facts in the case. Zogby said that the timing of these new attack ads in New York might not work for D'Amato.
"We already saw a lightness in Democratic interest in (the primary) turnout," Zogby said. "A heavy barrage now on the part of the Republicans, starting nationally with the release of the Clinton tape and what could in New York (with the new ads) appear to be bullying and overkill, could really turn off Republican and independent voters as well," Zogby said.
State Republican GOP Chairman William Powers, however, insisted the new ad isn't negative or trying to divide the state, but is merely pointing out Schumer's voting record.
Nonetheless, it took only a couple hours for the Democrats to respond in kind. Two ads were released that attack D'Amato for voting "to cut $270 billion from Medicare to give tax breaks to millionaires." The ad, by the New York Democratic Party, ends, "Tell Senator D'Amato to stop voting against seniors."
Schumer campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson said the new D'Amato ads attacking the Democratic nominee "are a desperate attempt at division from a candidate who is behind in the polls and out of touch with upstate."
He accused D'Amato of ignoring upstate's economy, which is lagging far behind the rest of the state and nation.