The CBS News Political Unit is tracking the political commercials of the presidential hopefuls. Sean Richardson analyzes the latest effort of Democrat Bill Bradley.
The Ad: The Bill Bradley for President campaign has launched a new ad in Iowa and New Hampshire called "Leadership." The 30-second spot is an attempt by the campaign to focus on broad issues affecting the country and the opportunities presented by our prosperous economy.
Audio: Bradley: "People accuse me of offering big ideas that they say are risky. I say the real risk is not doing the things I've set out to do in this campaign. The real risk is doing nothing about gun control. The real risk is doing nothing about reducing child poverty. The real risk is ignoring the people who don't have health care, and those who are middle class and are having a difficult time paying for their health care. That's the real risk in America. If we can't afford to do these now, when will we ever be able to do them? If not now, when? If not us, who? It can happen."
Visuals: In another one of Bradley's image-molding ads, the former senator is casually dressed sitting in a chair. Instead of the standard campaign ad backdrop of an American flag or a meeting with voters, we see him simply before a black screen. There are no cuts to campaign events, schools or Bradley meeting with voters; it's just you and the candidate.
Fact Check: No Inaccuracies.
Strategy: For some time now, the Bradley campaign has been attempting to portray him as the candidate of big ideas. However, Vice President Gore has tried to shoot these ideas down as bad economic policy or just unrealistic. In the "Leadership" ad, Bradley is trying to reach the heart of voters by focusing on issues that resonate with broad constituencies. He's also suggesting that Gore lacks the leadership qualities needed to implement sweeping proposals.
Bradley has followed this strategy on the campaign trail as well. Last week, in the New Hampshire debate, the vice president characterized Bradley's proposal to register all 65 million handguns as unrealistic and impossible to implement. Bradley responded by stating: "Where would the country be today if Franklin Roosevelt said Social Security's too difficult to do? Or if Lyndon Johnson said Medicare's too difficult to do. I mean, the essence of leadership is taking something that is difficult and making it possible, and making it possible because you've engaged the American people in the attempt to make it happen."
Bradley can accomplish several things by outlining far-reaching proposals. First, he's able to criticize some of what he believes are shortcomings in certain Clinton administration policies, without alienating core Democratic voters. He doesn't claim that these policies are bad; he maintains that tey can be taken further with the benefits of such a great economy. Second, Bradley is able to draw a distinction in leadership style. He's using the benefits of a good economy to propose big ideas - ideas that Gore has stated are risky.
Gore has taken a more practical approach to his proposals. In fact, his response to the gun-control question in last week's debate is a good example of this approach. Gore stated: "We have to find a way to make our political system work, taking into account the fact that there are so many people who are going to fight tooth and nail against the kind of maximalist measures that people want to talk about. And we have to find a way, as President Clinton and I did, to make dramatic progress to get guns out of the hands of the people who shouldn't have them."
Although both candidates have proposed progressive initiatives, Bradley is emphasizing what he calls the "fixing the roof when the sun is shining" approach. With a booming economy, Bradley believes it's important to get everyone on the "prosperity train." Both candidates' proposals center on the budget surplus, but Gore has consistently hammered Bradley for not setting aside any money for Medicare. Bradley claims that this decision is not bad economic policy. He believes that future growth in the budget surplus and advances in health care that will reduce the strain on the Medicare system will ensure the solvency of this important program.
Bradley is attempting to convey that politics outside what he calls the "Washington Bunker" is the politics of big ideas. He believes that his ideas aren't risky; he feels that the risk is in doing nothing. On the other hand, Gore focuses his response to these big ideas on where he thinks people might be hurt the most: their wallets.