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 TIME on politics TIME CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics - Storypage, with TIME and TIME

Des Moines Register: Forbes plans TV, radio ad blitz

By JEFF ZELENY/DES MOINES REGISTER

November 3, 1999
Web posted at: 11:41 a.m. EST (1641 GMT)

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (Des Moines Register) -- Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes said Tuesday that he will launch an Iowa television and radio advertising blitz before Thanksgiving.

Forbes said the style of his newest ads would differ from his 1996 campaign, when he directed a series of stinging commercials at then GOP front-runner Bob Dole. The attacks were so divisive, Dole said, he could not recover by the general election.

"We're obviously covering more issues than I had an opportunity to do in 1996," Forbes said Tuesday. "We're getting it across in a more creative way than we did in "96."

Forbes made his comments before embarking on a five-day bus tour across Iowa, his most extensive foray into the state since a second-place finish at the Republican straw poll in August. Since then, the GOP field of candidates has narrowed by four, putting Forbes in more direct competition with Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

While Forbes declined to discuss his advertisements in detail, he said he would not hesitate to draw distinctions with Bush, the GOP front-runner.

"By simply hitting on the issues, I think people will note the contrast between the substance of what I'm saying and the lack of it from another quarter," Forbes said.

Forbes said earlier this fall that he would ease up on his political advertisements if Bush would agree to a series of debates on specific issues. Bush, who declined Forbes' offer, has missed two New Hampshire debates with Republican contenders.

"Especially after what we've had in Washington for seven years, I think people want to get to know their candidates," Forbes said. "They don't want surprises after the election."

Bush began running a series of commercials last week in New Hampshire and Iowa, where the presidential nominating process begins next year. In one ad, Bush says Americans are tired of negative attacks, and he pledges to "run a campaign that is hopeful and optimistic and very positive."

In addition to his radio and television commercials, Forbes said he also is focusing on grass-roots campaigning in Iowa to prepare for the Jan. 24 precinct caucuses.

"If you don't have a good ground organization, the message isn't going to get through, especially on a cold wintry night in January," Forbes said.

In the ballroom of a Best Western motel, about 170 people Tuesday sipped chili and turkey noodle soup as Forbes outlined his health care, education and tax plans. Forbes tried to shake his stiff image with a series of quips, including: "I vow if I'm elected president, you'll have free lunch like this every day."

The crowd applauded throughout Forbes' 20-minute address, which was accented with frequent Iowa references. What the presidential candidate may not have known is that many people in the audience were from Nebraska.

"We don't get this kind of attention from presidential candidates in Nebraska," said Mark Novak who drove from Lincoln, Neb., to hear Forbes' flat-tax plan.

While he can't participate in the caucuses, Novak remained impressed: "He's a businessman, and the United States is the largest business in the world."

Steve Grubbs, an Iowa GOP activist who is advising the Forbes campaign, said many Iowans are still searching for a presidential favorite.

"People who passed this summer because they were supporting another candidate will now take another look," Grubbs said. "The Quayle people, the Dole people, the Buchanan people. There are a lot of voters still out there."

This report provided by Des Moines Register.com.


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