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Snap, Crackle, Pow Go the Internet Ads

Republicans and Democrats heaped more criticism on one another in a pair of Internet attack ads released late last week.

The Republican National Committee spot unveiled Thursday is a Web game that accuses Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry of raising taxes. “Tax Invaders” is a spoof of the classic 1978 arcade game Space Invaders. Players can shoot missiles from the movable head of President Bush, destroying what the RNC portrays as Kerry’s proposed tax increases.

The Democratic National Committee released a negative ad of its own Friday -- “Mistakes Were Made.” Using footage from the president’s news conference Tuesday evening, the ad focuses on Bush trying to think of an answer when asked by a reporter to identify the biggest mistake he had made since Sept. 11. As the president rambles on, phrases such as “Mission accomplished” and “Bring ‘em on” fade in and out. The ad concludes with the words “Credibility is on the ballot this November” appearing on screen.

“There definitely is a friendly rivalry going on ... in terms of how creatively you can get the message out,” said DNC spokesman Jano Cabrera of the Internet sparring.

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The Republican National Committee also embraces the inventive potential of the Internet.

“It’s an interactive way of getting issue information out,” said Christine Iverson, a spokeswoman for the RNC. “You’re reaching out to a different community” through the Web, said Mary Ellen Grant, deputy press secretary for the RNC.

Many of the Internet ads being developed by both parties -- often mass e-mailed to supporters -- take aim with humor, supplementing the campaigns’ tamer, televised commercials. “The Internet ads tend to be probably a little more lighthearted than a traditional [TV] ad,” Iverson said.

A Fact Fumble

It’s one of the 17 states that will be hotly contested in the presidential race, so both parties are looking for any advantage they can find in Pennsylvania -- home to 21 electoral votes and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Few public figures in the Keystone State are as revered as the men who had 13 consecutive winning seasons in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Put a mark on the scorecard for Bush, who has secured the endorsement of Lynn Swann, the wide receiver who caught so many touchdown passes from quarterback Terry Bradshaw.

It seemed to be an extra point when Jerome Bettis, a Steeler of more recent vintage, jumped on the Bush bandwagon. That gave the president two big-name Steelers (and a total of $4,000, which they contributed to his campaign), -- seemingly overshadowing Kerry, who on Friday won the endorsement of Franco Harris, the Steelers’ Hall of Fame running back. (Harris gave $1,000.)

But on his way to claiming Steeler superiority, the president’s spokesman, in effect, blew the extra point.

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“We always knew Lynn Swann’s reception was immaculate,” Bush-Cheney ’04 spokesman Scott Stanzel said of Swann’s endorsement. “But this may be his best catch yet.”

In fact, Swann had nothing to do with the “Immaculate Reception.” It was Kerry man Harris who hauled in a deflected pass for the 1972 touchdown that sent the Raiders out of the playoffs and put the Steelers on their way to becoming the Team of the Decade.

Just Taxing

$727,083: President and Laura Bush’s 2003 taxable income.

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$227,490: The amount the Bushes paid in taxes this year.

$395,338: John F. Kerry’s 2003 taxable income.

$102,152: The amount Kerry paid in taxes this year.

Duly Quoted

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“President Bush held a press conference earlier tonight and, as a result, the Fox network had to postpone ‘American Idol.’ Yeah, some ‘American Idol’ fans were confused, kept calling in to vote for the old white rapper.” -- Conan O’Brien on NBC’s “Late Night.”

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Compiled from staff, Web and wire reports by Times staff researcher Susannah Rosenblatt.


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