White House goes after Gingrich
Democrats see an opening in anti-Clinton ads
By John King/CNN
WASHINGTON (October 30) -- The Clinton White House is trying to make House Speaker Newt Gingrich a campaign issue after a report that the speaker orchestrated a new TV ad campaign touching on the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal.
The White House is attacking Gingrich, a familiar foe, as it tries to turn attention away from the president in the final days of Campaign '98. The midterm elections are Tuesday, with hotly contested races from New York to California.
"These attacks personally devised by Speaker Newt Gingrich are wrong," Vice President Al Gore said Friday. "The choice this November third, as a result, is now clearer and starker than it has ever been. On one hand, we have the Gingrich plan: More negative ads, more personal attacks, more partisan investigations, more of the politics of personal destruction."
At issue are new Republican ads, appearing in a limited number of targeted congressional districts, designed to boost GOP turnout on Tuesday.
"That is the question of this election: Reward Bill Clinton or vote Republican," declares one of the ads.
Republican sources tell CNN that the house speaker is being kept informed of the party's advertising strategy and these sources say the Clinton attack ads were crafted by the speaker's top political lieutenants.
But Republicans say news reports that the speaker personally approved the scripts are ludicrous.
Gingrich allies are shrugging off the new attacks.
"Two years ago at this time, the president himself was writing the Democrats' commercials, lying about the Republicans' position on Medicare that the next year the president signed into law, so I really don't take very seriously their attacks here at the 11th hour," said Rep. Bill Paxon (R-New York).
But Democrats are eager to make an issue of the controversial speaker.
House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt wrote the speaker to say "you have forfeited your legitimacy" in the impeachment debate by playing a role in the attack ads.
Democrats are too broke for a major TV ad blitz, but a new radio ad is designed gin up turnout. "All the Republicans talk about is more investigations," the radio ad says. "They're obsessed with getting rid of the president."
"When the Democrats out there see that he's (Gingrich) bringing all the combined force of Congress that he controls to throw this president out of office, to reverse the last election, you better believe that's going to energize Democrats," said Gov. Roy Romer, the Democratic National Committee's general chairman.
Attacking Gingrich is a time-tested Democratic strategy.
A recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll shows the speaker is viewed favorably by 42 percent of Americans and unfavorably by 49 percent.
Those numbers are an improvement over two years ago, when Gingrich was a staple in Democratic ads.
Back then, six in 10 Americans had an unfavorable view of Gingrich.
The attack ads, and the White House response, reflect the urgency that both parties feel about motivating their core voters as Tuesday's elections draw near.
Friday, October 30, 1998
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White House goes after Gingrich
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Labor officials, governor's aides face campaign charges