2000 Bush VS. Gore

"Really MD"

"Really MD," which first aired on September 1, 2000, was the first attack ad of the general election campaign for George W. Bush. With the economy in good shape, and no major domestic or international problems, Bush was attempting to maintain his image as a genial, sincere person. In late August, Bush blocked an attack ad challenging Al Gore's trustworthiness. However, the strategy changed because Gore was enjoying a post-convention bounce. The ad team, led by Alex Castellanos, decided to raise questions about Gore's trustworthiness and integrity. The ad "Really" makes the attack with humor, and with the softening touch of using a female narrator. The woman is commenting sarcastically about an Al Gore ad that is playing on a small television set. As Governor Bush's communications director Karen Hughes explained, "They tried to insulate Bush from the harshness of the message. They put the words in the mouth of an anonymous narrator. They used a woman's voice. They phrased the criticism in a humorous way." Relatively mild by the standards of the 2004 and 2008 elections, this ad was viewed by the press as particularly harsh, with headlines such as "RNC Gets Really Nasty," "Bush Approves New Attack Ad Mocking Gore," and "Bush Torpedoes Himself."

Transcript

Museum of the Moving Image
The Living Room Candidate
"Really MD," Bush, 2000

FEMALE NARRATOR: Well, there's Al Gore, reinventing himself on television again. Like I'm not going to notice? Who's he going to be today? The Al Gore who raises campaign money at a Buddhist temple? Or the one who now promises campaign finance reform? Really. Al Gore, claiming credit for things he didn't even do.

AL GORE: I took the initiative, in creating the internet.

FEMALE NARRATOR: Yeah, and I invented the remote control, too. Another round of this and I'll sell my television.

[TEXT: gorewillsayanything.com]

Credits

"Really MD," Republican National Committee, 2000

Maker: Cold Harbor Films

Original air date: 08/31/00

Video courtesy of the Republican National Committee.

From Museum of the Moving Image, The Living Room Candidate: Presidential Campaign Commercials 1952-2012.
www.livingroomcandidate.org/commercials/2000/really-md (accessed September 15, 2014).

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2000 Bush Gore Results

Domestic concerns were at the heart of the 2000 presidential campaign as Vice President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush sparred over a relatively small group of key issues, including prescription drug plans for senior citizens, the future of Social Security, education, and the economy. Each side claimed that the other’s economic plan would result in increased deficits. Gore’s commercials claimed that Bush’s planned tax cuts were irresponsible, and Bush’s commercials claimed that a Gore administration would squander the budget surplus through big spending, bringing back the days of high deficits. With the economy in good shape, and with the public seemingly uninterested in foreign affairs, the election was a battle for the center. The commercials for both campaigns attempted to create warm images of their candidates with soft background music.

Conspicuously missing from the commercials was reference to the sex scandal and impeachment that marred the last two years of the Clinton presidency. The election was the closest in American history, determined by a margin of just 537 votes in Florida. A series of intense legal battles over the Florida recount was not resolved until a controversial 5-4 Supreme Court decision 36 days after the election.

Republican
George W. Bush for president
Dick Cheney for vice president

"A Fresh Start"

George Bush’s commercials were designed to reinforce his image as a "compassionate conservative" with their focus on domestic issues and frequent images of seniors and children. Since the end of the Cold War in 1989, the traditional Republican focus on foreign policy and the need for military strength had virtually disappeared from presidential campaigns. With an emphasis on pocketbook issues, Bush’s commercials were filled with facts and figures onscreen, using statistics, graphs, and charts to demonstrate fiscal responsibility. The use of "attack" ads was relatively mild; clearly, the commercials were designed to reach undecided voters who might very well have been turned off by vicious, polarizing rhetoric.

Democrat
Al Gore for president
Joe Lieberman for vice president

"Prosperity for America's Families"

Al Gore’s commercials featured the candidate speaking in gentle, soothing tones, perhaps to counter the stiffness of his image. However, they failed to demonstrate any major difference between the two candidates. For example, the commercial "Accountability" began with Gore saying, "George Bush and I actually agree on accountability in education." Since the idea of accountability was the basis of Bush’s education proposals, the commercial actually may have benefited Bush more than Gore. While a number of Gore commercials challenged Bush’s record as Texas governor and the fairness of his tax-cut proposals, most of them relied on statistics rather than emotions, and their impact was weak.

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