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$4-Million McCarthy TV Ad Campaign Hits the Air

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The long-promised “new beginning” to Lt. Gov. Leo McCarthy’s Senate campaign has dawned with two television commercials presenting McCarthy as a defender of the state’s natural beauty and as a champion of older people.

McCarthy, who has resisted spending much of his campaign funds until now, has made it clear that his hopes of unseating Republican Sen. Pete Wilson ride on the estimated $4-million television campaign that starts today. Wilson, who has already spent well over $1 million on television ads, leads his Democratic opponent by 10 to 12 points in public opinion polls.

Conspicuously absent from McCarthy’s first TV ads is any mention of Wilson, who warned last week in ads of his own that McCarthy’s television strategy would be a throwback to the McCarthyism of the 1950s, rife with “untrue charges” and “innuendo.”

While its first ads are truly benign, the McCarthy camp admits to having rougher stuff on the shelf that spokesmen say will do more than the current ads to set the tone of the campaign

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“What you are seeing today is not the cutting edge,” said Kam Kuwata, an adviser to McCarthy. “That will come when we start asking which one of these candidates can do something for the people of California. So far, Pete Wilson hasn’t made the case that he can.”

The TV message unveiled by McCarthy today is in keeping with themes he has talked about since he announced his candidacy over a year ago. Now, however, his message is attractively and expensively packaged for mass consumption.

Campaign Miscues

As the message goes on the air, it will not be undercut by campaign miscues, a problem that bedeviled McCarthy earlier in the year. Acknowledging that the campaign was going nowhere last spring, senior aides recommended that McCarthy save most of his money and his energy for the fall when, they promised, there would be a “new beginning.”

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McCarthy’s first commercials, showing him in various scenes--contemplating the California coastline from an airplane, walking along a beach with his wife, Jacqueline, and patting an elderly woman’s hand--are designed to introduce McCarthy to voters as a thoughtful, compassionate public figure.

The commercials also introduce the voters to McCarthy’s fall campaign slogan, “One of us,” a phrase meant to reinforce a central theme of the campaign: McCarthy is the candidate of working families.

‘First Exposure’

“This is the first exposure a lot of voters will have of Leo McCarthy. It gives them a feel for him as a person and for the issues he cares most about,” said Darry Sragow, McCarthy’s campaign director.

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Both the McCarthy and the Wilson campaigns have worked hard to portray their candidates as compassionate figures. An early TV commercial by Wilson showed the senator sitting beside an elderly woman in a wheelchair while a narrator told of Wilson’s donating his pay raise to the search for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

The McCarthy campaign, on and off the air, will address itself to the urgent concerns of California families, said Roy Behr, McCarthy’s director of research.

In choosing its priorities, Behr said, the McCarthy campaign has looked at life the way most ordinary people do.

‘Average Family’ Concerns

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“When the average family gets up in the morning, what do they face?” Behr asked. “Day care. Gridlock on the way to work. They are worried that their older kids aren’t getting a decent education. They want to know that the water is clean and the food isn’t contaminated by pesticides. They’re worried about the next mortgage payment, about whether their job will be there tomorrow, about how to take care of their aging parents.”

McCarthy addresses one of those issues in one of the TV ads that begin this week.

In the ad, which shows him tenderly reassuring an elderly woman, McCarthy talks about his efforts to stop nursing home abuses in California and to start nutrition programs for needy, elderly people. The 30-second spot ends with him pledging to defend Social Security and Medicare.

According to aides, the commercial will begin later in the week and air initially in Sacramento and Fresno.

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The second commercial, which starts today in Los Angeles and Sacramento, mentions endorsements that McCarthy has received from the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters. It also speaks of his efforts to postpone oil drilling off the California coast.


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