Campaign ads avoid security themes

They may not seem as weighty as Iraq or security, but saving family farms, putting rapists on trial and teaching kids science are issues making noise also in election campaigns across the United States.

With two months to go before November 7 elections that will decide who controls Congress, the tone and themes of campaign commercials may shift as voters tune in and strategists refine messages to highlight security.

Away from the war and terrorism that dominate talk in Washington, it’s often domestic issues such as the economy that decide elections in a country where states and districts elect 535 members of the Senate and House of Representatives.

President George W. Bush and other Republicans tout America’s low 4.7 percent jobless rate and solid economic growth, but stagnant wages and higher prices for everything from gasoline to health care have many voters seeking change.

“We’ve been saying all along that House races tend to be more about local and pocketbook issues — but nobody would listen” said Carl Forti, a spokesman for the House Republican election committee.

“There are two pillars of security – national security and economic security,” said Illinois Democrat Rep. Rahm Emanuel, head of the House Democratic campaign committee. “We’ll debate the economy, jobs, gas prices, health care costs.”

But other issues factor also in local races.


In Virginia, Republican Sen. George Allen has an ad stressing the importance of engineering and technological innovation. The words “Math” and “Science” appear on the television screen.

Allen has commercials touting his opposition to Internet predators on children — a topic that also appeared in one of Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Rick Santorum’s commercials.

Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders, aligning himself with Democrats in his bid to move from the House to the Senate, is known for his leftist political views but lauds the family farm, featuring country singer Willie Nelson, in his TV ads.

In Colorado, Democratic congressional candidate Peggy Lamm lambasted her opponent for not wanting to abolish the statute of limitations in rape cases.

Washington Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell has focused on the economy, recalling that she once worked as a waitress. But like other candidates, she has branched out to more local topics like size limits for oil tankers in Puget Sound.

Some of the ads do already focus on security, typically with Republicans depicting Democrats as soft on terrorism and preparing to “cut and run” from Iraq. Democrats counter that Bush’s Republican administration has bungled Iraq at the expense of vanquishing al Qaeda and protecting U.S. soil.

In Connecticut, Republican Rep. Nancy Johnson, in a tight reelection race, backed Bush’s stance on tracking down terror suspects, depicting in an eerie green ad a phone call between New York and Pakistan.

Some analysts predict that security ads will dominate by November, with Republicans attacking and Democrats answering much more forcefully than in past campaigns.

“It’s coming,” said Cook Political Report Senate analyst Jennifer Duffy. “People are still doing the warm and fuzzies, but it’s coming.”

© 2006 Reuters