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Special Appeal to Younger Voters : Cranston’s TV Campaign Narrated by Bridges

Times Political Writer

At first you see only the legs, clad in jogging togs, pumping across a sunny field.

Then there’s a voice: “Always ahead of the pack. Sometimes it’s lonely to be out front, but that’s where he’s been--to stop the war in Vietnam, to save our coastline from offshore drilling. . . .”

The legs belong to Democratic Sen. Alan Cranston, a lifelong runner, who this week begins heavy television advertising in his bid for a fourth Senate term.

The voice is that of actor Lloyd Bridges, whose presence in the ads fits neatly into the Cranston strategy of making a special appeal to younger voters in the November election.

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“Hey, every baby-boomer grew up watching ‘Sea Hunt,’ ” said Cranston pollster Patrick Caddell, mentioning the name of the 1960s television show that starred Bridges as a scuba-diving private investigator. The Cranston advisers think that many people will recognize the voice because “Sea Hunt” was distinguished more by sound than by visual effects--it was mostly Bridges talking and bubbles escaping as he took on one tough underwater job after another.

The Cranston campaign screened six 30-second campaign spots on Monday, three of which will appear frequently throughout the state during the next two weeks. The others will go on the air sometime after the June 3 primary, when Republican voters choose Cranston’s opponent.

“We’re spending $600,000 over two weeks,” said Cranston campaign manager Darry Sragow, who estimated that about 85% of the television-viewing households in the state will see the Cranston ads a dozen times before they go off the air May 14.

Cranston has never been on the air so early in a campaign, but his advisers insisted Monday that this does not mean the campaign is more worried than usual about this race.

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“This is the technique of the day,” said David Doak, one of three Washington consultants who made the commercials. “You define the issues of the campaign early.”

The spots give the campaign’s view of Cranston’s support for environmental issues, trade policies and education programs.

One features the late Ansel Adams’ famous photographs of Yosemite, and credits Cranston with protecting California’s majestic beauty. Another shows Cranston on a tugboat in Long Beach Harbor, talking about trade policy--"These are the battlegrounds,” Bridges intones, “and Alan Cranston knows it is a battle we can’t afford to lose.”

Doak said: “You have a Republican field with no clear leader. They’re all attacking each other and being very unsenatorial.”

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So another ad shows Cranston working late hours in his Senate office, then taking work home in his trademark black satchel. The ad rates him with Theodore Roosevelt, Earl Warren and Robert Kennedy as a leader on issues ranging from national parks to civil rights.

In every ad, the 71-year-old Cranston is all action.

“What these ads are supposed to do is say that (Cranston) must be very special because people have elected him three times,” said Robert Shrum, Doak’s partner. “When people talk about being on the cutting edge of change, some (politicians) start today, but Alan Cranston has been there for a long time.”

One ad shows Cranston walking down a hallway with Democratic Sens. Gary Hart of Colorado, Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, Sam Nunn of Georgia and Joseph Biden of Delaware.

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In individual shots, each of them praises Cranston. But Biden is especially enthusiastic. “Alan Cranston,” he says, “is simply the best senator in the United States Senate.”


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