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Lazio's Wife Hammers Hillary

The CBS News Political Unit is tracking the latest campaign commercials. Francesca Gessner takes a look at the new Rick Lazio ad that features Pat Lazio defending her husband's record on health-care reform.


The Ad: New York Republican Senate candidate Congrssman Rick Lazio has released a new TV ad titled Know. The 30-second commercial is a response to a New York State Democratic Party ad attacking Lazio for "bowing to drug companies" by backing the Republican Medicare drug prescription plan. Know features Lazio's wife, Pat, defending her husband's support for a Patients' Bill of Rights and Medicare drug prescription coverage. The ad is running in upstate New York only.

Audio: Pat Lazio: "It's a shame but Mrs. Clinton's campaign isn't telling it straight about Rick Lazio and health care. The fact is Rick Lazio has won awards for his work in Congress to help cancer patients. Rick voted for a Patients' Bill of Rights and Rick just helped pass new legislation to help seniors afford their prescription drugs. Why do I care so much about health care? I'm a registered nurse. And how do I know so much about Rick Lazio? He's my husband."

Visual: The ad shows Rick Lazio's wife, Pat, speaking directly to the camera. As she speaks, the following text runs across the screen: "Lazio Won 14 Awards for Health Care," "Rick Lazio Voted For A Real Patients' Bill of Rights," and "Lazio Legislation Helps Seniors Afford Drugs," The ad concludes with a shot of the Lazio family - Rick, Pat and their two young daughters - walking on the beach.

Fact Check: Lazio voted with the House Republican Leadership against the Dingell-Norwood Managed Care Reform Act of 1999 that would have allowed patients to sue their HMOS for damages. Instead, Lazio supported two Republican versions of the Patients' Bill of Rights, including one that offered patients a limited right to sue their HMOs and capped lawsuit damages. Clinton says she supports a "real" Patients Bill of Rights that would guarantee access to specialists and emergency rooms and allow patients to sue their HMOs. As for prescription drug coverage, Lazio voted last month for a Republican plan that would offer private insurance companies government subsidies to cover prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries. Democrats oppose this plan, saying it does not provide a guaranteed, universal Medicare entitlement, and instead propose expanding Medicare to include a prescription drug benefit.

The Strategy: Lazio is fighting back after being attacked by Clinton's campaign on two hot-button issues: Patients' Bill of Rights and Medicare prescription drug coverage. Just one day before Know was unveiled, the New York State Democratic Party launched a TV ad attacking Lazio for supporting a Republican Medicare drug plan "that would leave millions without affrdable coverage." One month earlier, Clinton launched an ad accusing Lazio of voting against a bipartisan "real" Patients' Bill of Rights. Lazio's rapid response in Know reflects the ongoing battle between the two candidates to portray themselves as the "true" champion of health care reform.

By featuring Lazio's wife, Know allows Lazio to defend himself through a gentle-voiced surrogate. Because Mrs. Lazio is a registered nurse, she is a particularly compelling spokeswoman for health care, as viewers are encouraged to see her as objective and trustworthy. Mrs. Lazio's charge that the Clinton campaign "isn't telling it straight" echoes John McCain's "straight talk" motto, which makes sense given that McCain's former ad man is now producing Lazio's ads.

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