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MEDIA POLITICS : Candidates Pitching Anti-Crime Themes : TV Depicting the ‘Battle for New York’

Times Staff Writer

ABC News correspondent Brit Hume got it right Thursday night: “Bush is running for President, not sheriff, but some days it’s hard to tell.”

George Bush’s foray into a blue-collar section of Queens, N.Y., to receive the endorsement of several large police organizations made for some great visuals on the national TV newscasts, as Bush continued slamming Democratic nominee Michael S. Dukakis on the crime issue.

Before a Catholic high school audience and a crowd of policemen, the grieving father of a murdered officer presented his dead son’s badge to the vice president. A mustachioed policeman was shown brushing away a tear.

“No self-respecting police organization could ever, in true honesty and good conscience, support Michael Dukakis--no way,” a tough-looking police spokesman growled at the assembled cameras.

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These are the best kinds of images for a Bush campaign intent on hammering away on anti-crime themes. Dukakis, faced with a steady diet of Bush advertising and campaign clips on crime issues, Thursday sought a counterpunch that would both demonstrate his bona fides on the issue while continuing to portray an energized campaign on the way back.

In fact, ABC’s Sam Donaldson declared that “today’s rally in New Haven’s Italian section was better than a stick of dynamite in energizing Michael Dukakis.”

Dukakis, visibly emotional, declared, “I know something about crime” as he recalled the time his late doctor father was bound and gagged by a man looking for drugs in his office.

But the depiction of energy at the rally was countered somewhat by NBC and ABC reports that the Bush trip showed the Empire State was no longer safe for Dukakis. NBC bolstered the point by flashing on the screen a map depicting nine states in the Northeast, Midwest and Pacific coast, including California, that Republican strategists are targeting to lock up a victory.

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The strategists figure Bush needs to take only three of the nine, NBC said, and his political director, Rich Bond, went on camera to say that New Jersey, Ohio and Michigan look to be “the best ones” at this time.

NBC also ran a feature on the Rev. Jesse Jackson, primarily picturing the Democratic runner-up campaigning on behalf of Dukakis. But Republicans had to be happy about an insert in the piece, reporting that a black research organization had just said that “Bush could get the highest percentage of black votes of any Republican in recent times, partly because of his emphasis on crime.”


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