Steele's dog ads get Cardin's goat

Maryland Votes 2006

September 27, 2006|By Jennifer Skalka | Jennifer Skalka,SUN REPORTER

In two new television ads that debuted in Maryland's U.S. Senate race yesterday, both political parties have gone to the dogs - more precisely, one black and white Boston terrier - to criticize their opponents.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee released an ad that mimics Republican Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele's attention-grabbing commercial featuring that pooch.

The spot says that Steele's opposition to abortion rights and record of backing the Bush administration is more important to Maryland voters than his feelings about puppies. In an earlier ad praised for its fresh approach, Steele warned voters that he was about to be attacked by Democrats and that they might even slam him for hating puppies. He insisted "for the record" that he likes dogs.

"It's nice that Michael Steele likes puppies, but he's running for the United States Senate, and it's important to know where he stands on the issues," a male narrator says in the new Democratic ad, before highlighting Steele's support for the Iraq war, the Bush veto of embryonic stem cell research and opposition to abortion. "Michael Steele, he likes puppies, but he loves George Bush," the narrator says.

The Steele campaign immediately responded with a new ad of its own - featuring the same dog and styled similarly to Steele's previous ads where he talks directly to the camera.

"You knew they were coming," Steele says. "Nasty ads from the Washington crowd."

The camera cuts to Steele's doggie sidekick, who growls at the mention of those ads.

"We don't think much of that," Steele says. His ad goes on to attack Democratic nominee Benjamin L. Cardin, the 20-year congressman, for accepting special-interest money.

Steele is working to craft a likable persona through a series of television spots. And the dog has become his co-star. But Cardin and his national party accuse the Republican of avoiding a substantive conversation about his policy views. The Democratic committee has bought nearly $1 million in television time and is using its first ad to highlight issues that Steele has avoided.

The ad shows a photo of Steele arm in arm with President Bush, and the narrator says: "Michael Steele is a longtime supporter of George Bush. He supports the war in Iraq, supported Bush's veto of embryonic stem cell research, and he's against a woman's right to choose."

The ad is running in the Baltimore, Washington and Salisbury markets.

In his response, Steele criticizes the Democrats for going negative. Steele goes on to say that there are "real differences" between the candidates.

"I support cheaper medicine from Canada," says Steele, a former chairman of the state GOP. "Congressman Cardin took money from drug companies and voted against cheaper medicine. Ben Cardin's taken money from special interests for 20 years. I want to ban gifts from special interests."

Cardin spokesman Oren Shur called Steele's ad "blatant hypocrisy."

"Michael Steele has taken more special-interest money in nine years than Ben Cardin has taken in 22 years," Shur said. "If Steele is against gifts from lobbyists, then why does he accept them?"

Steele has received $681,765 this cycle from political action committees, according to Political Moneyline, a nonpartisan Web site. He has taken money from PACs representing energy and power, tobacco and defense companies, among others, according to Political Moneyline.

The lieutenant governor has also received campaign donations from at least three PACs tied to pharmaceutical companies: Schering-Plough Corporation Better Government Fund ($2,500), Hoffmann-LaRoche Inc. Good Government Fund ($2,500) and Bayer Corporation Political Action Committee ($1,000), according to Political Moneyline.

Doug Heye, a Steele campaign spokesman, did not respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, Cardin has taken $741,119 this cycle from PACs, according to Political Moneyline.

"Michael Steele is trying to reinvent himself by hiding the fact that he is on the same page as George Bush on several important issues like Iraq and stem cell research," said Phil Singer, a spokesman for the Democratic senatorial committee. "So we wanted to set the record straight. That's what this ad does."

jennifer.skalka@baltsun.com

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