Funding education tops GOP's agenda

Campaign Ad Watch

October 11, 2002

Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s campaign began running a new television advertisement in the Washington market this week, his second spot to address his education agenda.

What the ad says: Ehrlich, who is shown standing in front of a leafy background, narrates the ad.

"Democrats and Republicans agree," he says, "our state faces serious problems. I'll start by fixing Maryland's $1.7 billion deficit."

The ad then shows an article from The Washington Post with a headline about the deficit, including the words "Townsend Now Won't Rule Out Raising Taxes."

"While Mrs. Townsend distorts my record in Congress, I voted for the largest education-funding increase in history," Ehrlich continues. "As governor, I believe we must fully fund every school, help every child read by the third grade and repair our aging schools."

Images of children in classrooms fill the screen before Ehrlich returns.

"The Glendening-Townsend team has had eight years to get it right. It's time for a change," he says.

The facts: While Townsend has correctly cited votes Ehrlich has cast in Congress, she has also used partial truths about his record. She has said he voted to cut Head Start funding, for example.

In 1995, Ehrlich supported an unsuccessful bill that would have included $137 million less than what Democrats wanted for Head Start funding. However, between 1996 and this year he has voted in favor of an overall increase of about $3 billion in Head Start funding.

When Ehrlich talks about the "largest education-funding increase in history," he is referring to President George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind Act," which he actively supported.

The promises Ehrlich makes in the ad about schools are consistent with what he has been saying since the campaign began. He wants to fully fund the $1.3 billion Thornton plan to improve schools. He also wants to launch a so-called Thornton II panel to find with ways to improve curriculum and student performance.

Analysis: The first phrase of the ad, "Democrats and Republicans agree," tells the viewer that Ehrlich is presenting himself as a moderate who can work with Democratic lawmakers in Annapolis.

By focusing once again on education, Ehrlich is tapping a topic of equal concern to all voters.

The ad also takes advantage of concerns about the projected state budget shortfall.

Using the Post's headline subtly suggests that Kathleen Kennedy Townsend will raise taxes to balance the budget.

- Sarah Koenig

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