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Democrats plan ads blaming GOP for recession

By Dana Bash
CNN Capitol Hill Producer

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As House Democrats prepare to run their first political ads since September 11th -- blasting the GOP for the economic downturn -- Republicans shot back Friday, saying it was inappropriate to play politics at this time.

"It is shameful, absurd and very poorly timed," said Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, who predicted the ads would "backfire" against Democrats.

"How sad it is that in a time of war, the Democrats have chosen to return to politics as usual," House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, said in a statement.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is planning to run radio ads next month against vulnerable Republicans, attacking them for their economic proposals, which Democrats call giveaways to the wealthy and corporations.

"We will be talking about the recession and the fact that the Republicans have an obligation to exercise leadership," said Kim Ruby, spokeswoman for the DCCC who said it they were criticizing the economy, not the war.

Ruby said the ads have not yet been written, but will run in places "where the economy will be a relevant issue."

Democratic leaders stepped up their rhetoric against Bush for his handling of the economy this week, as the White House announced there would be a budget deficit for the rest of the President's term. Democrats charge Bush's $1.35 trillion tax cut is to blame for the deficit.

"There is a sensitivity right now in the administration abut the Bush economy. We are in a recession," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota. "That is something we predicted a long time ago."

But while they try to pin the recession on the President's tax policy by using language like "Bush economy," Democrats are very careful to praise Bush as commander-in-chief as his popularity for leading the country against terrorism remains high.

"We strongly support his efforts in Afghanistan and we think that he deserves high marks. We have significant difference of opinion with him on the economy , economic policy, and I wouldn't give him high marks to the economy," said Daschle.

Republicans, trying to expose Democrats' political strategy, are circulating a memo written by Democratic consultants James Carville, Robert Shrum and Stan Greenberg urging Democrats to start positioning themselves for the 2002 congressional elections now by hitting Bush on the economy.

The memo told Democrats that although America's nerves are raw and Bush's approval ratings are high, it is not time to step back from politics as long as they do not adopt an overly partisan tone.

"The country is very uncomfortable with the aggressive tax-cut program of the Republicans, which voters think will put the country in the hole again and undermine the ability to meet critical spending needs," the Democratic strategists said, basing their comments on a national poll and focus groups.


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