The Ad: New York Republican Senate candidate Congressman Rick Lazio has released a new TV ad called Believe. The 30-second ad features Senator John McCain criticizing Hillary Clinton for using soft money to run attack ads and for refusing to agree to ban soft money in the NY Senate race. A disappointed McCain cautions voters that Lazio is "the candidate you can trust." The ad is running throughout New York state.
Audio: John McCain: "You know when Mrs. Clinton said she wouldn't take huge special interest soft money contributions if her opponent wouldn't, I believed her. But since then she's taken in millions in soft money and used it for attack ads distorting Rick Lazio's record. Rick Lazio has said he'll agree to a soft money ban, but Mrs. Clinton just refuses. So it's pretty clear there's only one Senate candidate who really wants campaign finance reform. Rick Lazio - he's the candidate you can trust."
Visual: McCain, sitting in a living-room environment, speaks directly to the camera. "Paid for by Lazio 2000" appears at the bottom of the screen.
Fact check: It is somewhat misleading to say that Clinton "refuses" a ban on soft money. In fact, the two campaigns are in a back and forth argument over the matter, with each camp saying they will agree to a ban if the other camp agrees to their conditions. Clinton says she will agree to a ban if Lazio obtains letters of compliance from 14 independent groups that have pledged to spend a reported $32 million against Clinton. Lazio's campaign has called that requirement unrealistic. The campaigns continue to be deadlocked over the issue. Meanwhile, a Lazio adviser said in yesterday's NY Times that Lazio is likely to set up a soft money committee of his own in the near future.
The Strategy: As the title Believe implies, Lazio's ad is more about Hillary Clinton's trustworthiness than about campaign finance reform. The ad's final line, "Rick Lazio - he's the candidate you can trust," echoes another ad Lazio released earlier in the week that asserts, "Hillary Clinton: You Just Can't Trust Her." The ad signals that trust and character are fast emerging as central themes in Lazio's campaign. Moreover, McCain's reputation for "straight-talk" makes him a particularly persuasive figure to question Clinton's credibility. Despite having lost the New York primary to George W. Bush, McCain remains a popular figure in New York state with potential appeal to independent voters. McCain's presence in the ad thus seeks to appeal to independents and link Lazio to McCain's reformer reputation.