Ad attacks Ehrlich's House record


Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is airing a television advertisement that accuses Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. of trying to run from his congressional voting record. The ad is being shown in the Baltimore and Washington television markets.

What the ad says: The spot begins with a photograph of Ehrlich and the words "false negative ad" in red letters. The narrator says, "Bob Ehrlich's negative ad, instead of defending his record, he attacks Kathleen Kennedy Townsend."

The spot then shows Ehrlich's photograph next to a school bus and a classroom. "In Congress, he did vote to cut student loans and school lunches, to eliminate the Department of Education and for the largest education cut in history," the narrator says.

Next, Ehrlich's photograph is shown next to the U.S. Capitol. "Ehrlich talks about deficits, but he voted to turn a record surplus into a $160 billion deficit." The announcer continues, "He voted to raid Social Security and cut Medicare."

The spot ends with the words, "Ehrlich: Cut education. Run up deficits. Raid Social Security. No wonder he can't defend his own record."

The facts: As a freshman congressman, Ehrlich voted in 1995 to cut $10 billion from the federal student loan program. But the cut was part of a comprehensive proposal that sought to balance the budget for the first time since 1969 by shrinking the federal government and returning more power to the states.

Ehrlich did vote in 1995 to eliminate the Department of Education. At the time, House Republicans said they wanted those education dollars to go to the states, where they thought the money would be spent more effectively.

Ehrlich also voted to cut the school lunch program in 1995 and replace it with block grants to the states.

Townsend's claim that Ehrlich voted to cut Medicare is untrue. In fact, he voted in 1995 to increase Medicare funding from $177 billion to $294 billion in fiscal year 2002. At the time, congressional Democrats were saying that was a cut because it was a smaller increase than they had sought.

On the budget, Ehrlich did support President Bush's plan this year that spends $160 billion more than it takes in.

Democrats say the deficit is a result of the $1.35 trillion tax cut passed by Congress last year. Bush and congressional Republicans say the shortfall is a result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent war.

Townsend says the ad is in response to an Ehrlich spot that suggests the lieutenant governor and Gov. Parris N. Glendening are responsible for corruption, budget deficits and congested highways.

Analysis: The ad attempts to use Ehrlich's congressional voting to paint him as a conservative Republican who is out of step with Maryland voters.

For Ehrlich - who has cast more than 20,000 votes in Congress - the ad illustrates the challenges he faces as Townsend highlights some of his votes.

But the spot also shows how easily Ehrlich's votes can be taken out of context.

"It is standard negative campaigning," said Matthew A. Crenson, a political science professor at the Johns Hopkins University. "This is how the game is played; ... it was bound to come to this in a close election."

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