Steele campaign airs first TV ad

Republican U.S. Senate candidate plays down political affiliation in spot


In the first television ad trumpeting his U.S. Senate bid, Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele suggests he'll be a "different kind of senator" who will criticize both political parties. He does not mention that he is a Republican.

The 30-second ad is to run for two weeks on Baltimore, Washington, Hagerstown and Salisbury TV stations.

The spot shows Steele, wearing a dark suit and striped tie, sitting casually on a wooden stool and talking directly to the camera.

"I know what you're thinking," he says, upbeat music playing in the background. "I know what you're feeling. Washington has no clue what's going on in your life. They blame each other. They work the angles while you're just trying to make today better than yesterday. You just want someone to get something done."

He continues: "Instead of the spin, I'll talk straight about what's wrong in both parties. You know, to get a different kind of government, you're going to need a different kind of senator."

A female narrator chimes in as Steele stands, arms folded across his chest, next to a campaign sign. "Ready for change?" she says. "Get ready for Steele."

The ad was produced by a firm with close ties to the Bush administration and the Republican National Committee. Steele spokeswoman Melissa Sellers said media consultant Brad Todd and OnMessage Inc. of Alexandria, Va., created the spot.

According to Campaigns & Elections Inc., Todd is partnered with strategist Curt Anderson and pollster Wes Anderson, who together led the RNC's $20 million effort in 2004 to re-elect President Bush.

President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, White House adviser Karl Rove and other national Republicans have raised money for Steele's campaign. The Maryland Democratic Party issued a statement yesterday accusing Steele of using the ad to mislead voters about his allegiances.

"Michael Steele is trying to be someone he is not," said Derek Walker, the party's executive director. "Independent? Hardly. Steele supports Bush on Iraq, on prescription drugs, on stem cells. All the TV ads in the world can't erase the fact that Michael Steele will be another vote for George Bush and Dick Cheney in the Senate."

Sellers said Steele's ad buy is $606,350.

Steele is facing only a nominal challenge in the Republican primary. But with a crowded Democratic field jockeying for the nomination, and two candidates already on television, Steele needs to make his presence in the race known, said Jennifer Duffy, editor and political analyst for The Cook Political Report.

Duffy said the ad appears to be designed to get voters' attention and to show Steele as an outsider. "I think that is who they want voters to see Michael Steele to be: edgy, urban, different," she said.

Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, one of the Democrats vying to run against Steele to replace retiring Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, launched his second television ad this week. Running in the Baltimore market, the spot says Cardin has taken on the drug, oil and insurance companies and voted against the Iraq war.

"I always try to do what's right, what's in the best interest of Maryland families," says Cardin, a 10-term congressman.

Maryland Republican Party Chairman John Kane said the Cardin ad takes "Washington double-talk and spin to a whole new level."

"Ben Cardin has managed to rake in more than $4.5 million from special interests during his time in Congress, ... and a lot of this money was from those industries Cardin pretends to work against in his ad," Kane said.

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