(Des Moines, IA) A handful of the Republican presidential candidates are spending their campaign cash on radio and television ads in Iowa designed to curry favor with Iowans who may turn-out for this Saturday’s Iowa Republican Party Straw Poll in Ames.
“It’s not the most efficient way to make contact with the people who are likely to attend the Straw Poll,” according to University of Iowa political science professor Peverill Squire. “But I think one thing the candidates are trying to do is to remind people out there, even those who aren’t very active (in politics), that they are competitive and they are trying very hard to get this nomination and they need to be taken seriously as contenders.”
Former Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander is running a television ad which his campaign staff describes as a parody. In the ad, actors portraying monied interests are seen waving cash and cigars — depicting the accusation Alexander often makes on the campaign trail, that front-runner George W. Bush is trying to buy the nomination.
Former Ambassador Alan Keyes sometimes purchases commercial airtime on local radio stations to tout his upcoming campaign speeches. Television commentator Pat Buchanan and conservative activist Gary Bauer are each running radio ads in Iowa which focus on their “pro-life” position on abortion. But the biggest ad buyer of them all is magazine publisher Steve Forbes.
The Forbes ads on radio and TV focus on issues, like Social Security and the farm crisis, as well as Forbes as a person. His wife and daughters are featured in testimonials.
“Forbes has the resources to have a pretty diverse set of advertisements,” said Squire. “He’s clearly trying to hit people at different levels so he wants to introduce himself, to make himself ‘warm and fuzzy.’ He also wants to have a hard, conservative edge.”
A 60-second radio commercial which began airing this week in Iowa features Paul Weyrich, a nationally-prominent conservative who helped found the Christian Coalition. In the ad, Weyrich, who has endorsed Forbes, calls Forbes a “conservative with integrity, free from the corruption of Washington.”
Squire, the political scientist, believes the media itself is one target audience for that ad and all the others airing on Iowa broadcast outlets.
“The intended audience isn’t simply the caucus attenders, but also observers, reporters and people (the presidential candidates) want to remind that they have the resources they think they need to hang in the race,” Squire said.
But Squire notes the irony of the Iowa ad wars. George W. Bush, the candidate with the $37 million dollar campaign war chest, isn’t using his money on radio or television ads.
“Bush doesn’t have to use his resources right now, so he’s in a good position,” Squire said.