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Ad Watch: DFL Candidates Prepare for the Primary
By Laura McCallum
August 23, 2000
Part of MPR's Ad Watch Series
Click for audio RealAudio 3.0

With less than three weeks left until the September primary, DFL Senate candidate Rebecca Yanisch is out with a new television ad. She joins DFLers Mike Ciresi and Mark Dayton, whose campaigns have gobbled up huge chunks of television airtime over the past few weeks.

The Ads
Rebecca Yanisch
Watch (RealVideo G2)
Michael Ciresi "Yantas"
Mark Dayton "Basic Rights"
AFL-CIO anti-Grams
THE NEW YANISCH AD running statewide features a testimonial by one of her campaign co-chairs, former Minnesota Congressman Tim Penny, who was once considered the strongest contender for Republican Senator Rod Grams' seat.
In Rebecca Yanisch, we have something fresh, something new, something real - that's the kind of leadership we need in the U.S. Senate.
Penny highlights Yanisch' background as a single mother without health insurance who worked her way through college and became a successful businesswoman. The spot shows colorful images of Yanisch talking to women and children at an outdoor event, and seems designed to showcase her as the only woman in the race. Analyst Dean Alger, the Minnesota director of the Alliance for Better Campaigns, says there aren't any inaccuracies in the ad, but there also aren't many specifics to critique.

"What Yanisch is trying to do in this ad is both to draw on a highly respected member of the party for a testimonial, and of course, all the visuals are women," Alger said. "It's another one of the fascinating strategic elements here - her clear efforts to appeal to women. But will Ciresi's powerful IUD ad cut into this?"

Alger is referring to what he considers the most powerful ad of Campaign 2000 so far. The sixty-second spot features close-up shots of Jeanne and Bill Yanta describing Jeannie's emergency ordeal after a defective IUD device left her infertile.
Jeannie: .. Came out after a four to six hour surgery and told my husband that he'd better call my entire family down to my bedside ...
Bill: ... Cause there was a very good possibility that she might not make it through the night. ...
Jeannie: My tubes were so scarred that I would never have kids. And he just said, you should just be thankful that you're alive. ...
Bill: ... We can't have children, and it still hurts.
Ciresi successfully sued the IUD manufacturer to get the product off the market. Yet Alger points out that Ciresi's picture only appears in the final few seconds of the ad.

"The technique used in the ad is fascinating," Alger says, "because in fact, most people, most average viewers, when they watch the ad are three quarters of the way through the ad before they have any idea that it's in fact a political ad."

Alger notes the ad not only aired during the nightly news - when most campaigns choose to buy airtime - but also during daytime soaps. He says Ciresi initially ran so-called "innoculation ads" designed to downplay his image as a millionaire trial lawyer, but his campaign is now touting his legal victories. Alger says with his enormous ad buys, Ciresi is running one of the most diverse media campaigns he's ever seen, ranging from the quirky spots of Ciresi campaigning at ice-fishing houses to the emotional Yanta ad.

Former state auditor Mark Dayton appears to be surpassing Ciresi with the extent of his ad buy. In one spot currently running statewide, the announcer lists Dayton's ideas on health care.
The Dayton plan: Require employers to provide health care to all their workers, make health plans pay for all the treatments their doctors provide, cover prescription drugs for seniors under Medicare.
The ad points out that Dayton is the only one of the major DFL Senate candidates to support immediate universal health care. In another ad, Dayton appeared to retreat from that by saying he would start by insuring children, but Dayton has since reiterated his support for immediate universal health care. Alger says Dayton's ads include more specifics than those of his primary opponents, but they also lack some important details, such as how to pay for universal coverage.

"So it's nice to make a general statement like that, but if we're really informing the public, we're gonna have to say something about how will you pay for it and how will you accomplish this. And the Dayton ads are a little short on that front," Alger said.

Alger says it's clear from the television ads so far that prescription drugs are the hot-button issue of the Senate campaign, with no fewer than eight candidate ads and three interest group ads on the topic. One of them paid for by the AFL-CIO attacks Grams on the subject, and shows a pharmacist talking about his customers who can't afford their medicine.
With the rising cost of medication today, it could wipe out anybody at any time. Yet Senator Rod Grams sided with the drug industry. He voted "no" to guaranteed Medicare prescription benefits that would protect seniors from runaway prices.
Alger says the ad accurately points out Grams' vote on a specific Medicare drug benefit bill. But it neglects to mention that Grams has introduced his own plan for a Medicare drug benefit, so Alger says it is misleading. The spot is what Alger calls a "cookie-cutter" ad - airing around the country with the name of a particular Republican candidate inserted, depending on the location of the ad.

The one major DFL Senate candidate who has yet to buy any television airtime is the party's endorsed candidate, Jerry Janezich. His campaign now says he probably won't run television ads before the primary. Janezich may be hoping his appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno will give him enough recognition to compete with his three primary opponents, who are certain to run more television spots in the final three weeks before the primary.