The Club for Growth will launch an ad campaign this week against Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) to coincide with the Minority Leader’s annual August recess driving tour across the state.
“We think that based on some polls we’ve seen that Daschle is in a lot of trouble in his home state,” said Club President Stephen Moore. “Part of this is to weaken his numbers in the state, but whenever he is weakened at home it forces him to be more cooperative in Washington.”
The ads, which were produced by Red Sea, will run in the Sioux Falls media market for the entirety of the August recess, Moore said, adding that the Club has budgeted roughly $50,000 for the effort. Given the relatively inexpensive ad rates in the state, an average viewer is likely to see the commercial 15 times before it goes off the air.
Titled “Foxhall Road,” the commercial focuses on a D.C. house purchased by Daschle and his wife, Linda, a lobbyist with Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, earlier this year. The Daschles paid $1.9 million for the home, more than $300,000 under the original asking price. They sold their old house near American University for $739,000.
“It’s a long way from Aberdeen to Foxhall Road,” a narrator intones at the start of the ad.
A picture of Daschle’s home is then shown as singers in the background croon “Tom’s house is a very, very, very big house,” to the tune of Crosby, Stills & Nash’s “Our House.”
“This is Tom Daschle’s new two million dollar house on Washington, D.C.’s ritzy Foxhall Road,” says the narrator. “It’s a good place for Daschle to entertain Hollywood liberals and Senate pals Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton.”
The narrator adds that “Daschle leads the fight against cutting taxes for South Dakota families,” noting wryly: “Maybe they don’t need tax relief on Foxhall Road.”
“But we can sure use it in South Dakota,” say a local Aberdeen couple as the 30-second spot comes to a close.
The ads arrive just as Daschle embarks on his annual trip to all 66 counties, a tour that is set to begin today in Rapid City.
Daschle will talk with voters about health care issues and post a daily Web log about his discussions and experiences.
Moore said the purpose of the ad is to highlight the “two Tom Daschles.”
“There is one who pretends to be a man of the people in South Dakota and the one that is the liberal Minority Leader who believes in far left-wing policies,” he said.
Officials with the Daschle campaign immediately struck back.
“The people of South Dakota know that Senator Daschle works hard for them every day in the Senate, and no amount of negative personal attack ads from an avowed hater of South Dakota farmers is going to change that,” spokesman Dan Pfeiffer said.
The animosity between the state’s agricultural community and Moore, alleges Pfeiffer, originated in an opinion piece the Club for Growth’s leader penned in The Washington Times in December 2001. It said that “the U.S. farm sector is arguably today the most welfare-dependent industry in America.”
As a result, farmers protested when Moore appeared in the state in 2002, according to Pfeiffer.
This is the second time this year the Club for Growth has bought air time to knock Daschle. In May, the Club ran ads urging Daschle to support the tax-cut plan backed by President Bush.
“Senator Daschle does not oppose tax cuts,” retorted Pfeiffer. “He opposes the cuts the Club for Growth supports, which do nothing to help the average families in South Dakota and across the country.”
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission about the commercials, alleging that they violated the tenets of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which states that issue-advocacy ads paid for by unregulated soft money cannot directly advocate the election or defeat of a specific federal candidate.
The complaint was dropped shortly after the Supreme Court stayed a ruling by a lower court on BCRA that would have made significant changes to the law.
Despite all the buzz surrounding the race, no Republican has yet stepped up to challenge Daschle.
The most prominent name mentioned is that of former Rep. John Thune (R), who lost a 2002 race to Sen. Tim Johnson (D) by 524 votes.
Most state and national Republicans expect Thune to run again, although an announcement is not expected until later in the fall.
Rep. Bill Janklow (R), a former governor, is also mentioned for the Senate race, but his health problems have cast a pall over a possible bid.
“There will be a good candidate whether it’s Thune or Janklow,” Moore said. “We anticipate this is going to be one of the most hotly contested Senate races in the country.”
Daschle is certainly approaching the race that way as he already has more than 20 staffers in place, led by campaign manager Steve Hildebrand, who headed Johnson’s successful race in 2002.
He has been running ads touting his support for ethanol, an alternative fuel produced from agricultural products, for the past month.
Daschle has been aggressively raising money, bringing in $1.4 million between April 1 and June 30, and ending the period with nearly $3 million in the bank.
He has also reshuffled the fundraising staff at what aides jokingly refer to as “Daschle Inc.”
Julianna Smoot is joining the South Dakota Democrat’s political operation as director of DASHPAC, the Senator’s leadership political action committee. Smoot is a veteran Democratic fundraiser, having most recently worked for the Association of Trial Lawyers of America and before that as finance director for Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.).
Melissa Maxfield, who had worked for DASHPAC before shifting over to the Senator’s re-election committee, has left for a lobbying and consulting job with Comcast Corp. and is being replaced as national finance director at A Lot of People Supporting Tom Daschle by Anya Hoerburger.
Paul Kane contributed to this report