Stepping up his invasion of territory long hostile to New York City politicians, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani plans to launch at least four new television commercials aimed at upstate markets before the end of the year. The first of the four 30-second spots will be aired by the end of this month.
The new ad blitz will largely be aimed at regions like Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany people close to the Mayor told The Observer -the same regions targeted by two other spots aired in recent weeks as gambits in Mr. Giuliani’s likely campaign for U.S. Senate. The new spots mean a total of at least six ads will have been unveiled with almost a full year remaining until Election Day-an aggressive foray into what is shaping up as an expensive battle between Mr. Giuliani and his well-financed opponent, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
It has yet to be decided which of the four ads will hit the airwaves first. But supporters of the Mayor said the first will likely be biographical, part of an effort to introduce Mr. Giuliani to voters who may see him as little more than a cross-dressing urban curiosity.
One spot being considered is an ad that opens with a shot of a young boy standing on a Long Island Rail Road platform-a paean to his Nassau County boyhood. It is also expected to offer snapshots of the Mayor in various earlier incarnations, including one of Mr. Giuliani as a mob-busting U.S. attorney, a person close to the Mayor said. The new ad blitz is being produced by Adam Goodman, Mr. Giuliani’s adman during his 1997 mayoral campaign, sources confirmed.
With a year to go until Election Day, the official position at City Hall is that no campaign is under way. But the planned ad attack seems to be part of a new and aggressive spate of campaign-style activity. It includes more frequent upstate appearances by Mr. Giuliani’s pollster, Frank Luntz, as well as secret strategy sessions between his advisers and powerful upstate allies like state Republican Party chairman Bill Powers and State Senate majority leader Joseph Bruno.
Mr. Giuliani has good reason to launch his upstate invasion early. It’s open territory, with 15 percent of voters undecided, more than in the city or suburbs, according to pollster Lee Miringoff of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. Statewide, Mr. Giuliani is ahead 47 to 42, according to Quinnipiac College’s survey earlier this month, with Mrs. Clinton stronger in the city and Mr. Giuliani leading in the suburbs.
So Mr. Giuliani’s ad war is an apparent effort to capture the upstate undecideds early. And it comes at a time when Mrs. Clinton’s campaign appears to be in a holding pattern-or, since her Israel trip, in damage control mode.
“That’s how campaigns can be won,” one well-placed person close to the Giuliani political team said. “You lock it in early.”
“It makes perfect sense in terms of the timing, tactically speaking,” added a top supporter of the Mayor.
At least one of the four new ads, a person close to the Mayor said, will echo the gentle tone and themes of his first, which hit the airwaves in the first week of November. The ad offered a soft-focus version of Mr. Giuliani’s achievements on crime and the economy, suggesting an early theme of Mr. Giuliani’s campaign: If you like what I did as Mayor, elect me your Senator. The obvious subtext: I have a record, and Hillary doesn’t.
“The message he’s spreading now is extremely effective, talking about economic development and creation of jobs and reduction of taxes,” said Robert Davis, the Republican Party’s chairman of Erie County, an area that is the target of the new ads and a key battleground in statewide races. “I think he has to establish himself as having a great record on these issues in New York City, and by doing so he’ll alleviate the myth of an upstate-downstate rivalry.”
But some Democrats confidently predict that Mr. Giuliani’s early ad attack is a clumsy tactical error. They call it a money-wasting effort to trumpet his mayoral achievements in regions that harbor suspicion of New York City mayors.
“The fact that the Mayor wears that title like a moniker on his forehead doesn’t help him here,” said Steve Pigeon, chairman of the Democratic Party in Erie County. “There’s a certain amount of distrust built in historically.”
Other Democrats insisted that television ads were no substitute for miles logged upstate. “Mrs. Clinton has visited over 40 counties to discuss issues of real importance to upstaters,” said Matthew Hiltzik, spokesman for the state Democratic Committee. “Typically, Mr. Giuliani has responded by choosing air time over face time.”
Although the remaining three ads are still being developed, people close to the Mayor said they may focus on local upstate issues, such as the region’s deflated economy. One mayoral supporter said they were paid for out of funds from Mr. Giuliani’s political committee, Solutions America.
Bruce Teitelbaum, the director of Solutions America, didn’t return a call for comment.
The planned ads come just as Mr. Giuliani is acting more and more like a full-time Senate candidate. His assaults on Mrs. Clinton in City Hall’s Blue Room have grown longer and more bitter. And he is said to be taking an increasingly active interest in his political image, sometimes screening his own ads at Gracie Mansion, one source said.
He has taken offense when his ads have been received negatively. Recently, Mr. Giuliani received word that New York Times columnist Gail Collins was writing a column criticizing his first ad, which portrayed a city filled with a happy and liberated populace. Ms. Collins wrote: “His euphoric constituents-smiling, waving, walking their babies across the extremely safe streets-all appear to be white.”
As Ms. Collins was putting together the column, Mr. Giuliani was so incensed about her take that he personally placed calls to Times editorial page editor Howell Raines and executive editor Joseph Lelyveld, according to a person with ties to the campaign. “He said that to try and inject race into this was silly,” the source said.
(A Times spokesman didn’t return a call requesting comment.)
Meanwhile, Mr. Giuliani’s longtime pollster, Mr. Luntz, has been more visible around the state, according to people close to the Mayor. And Mr. Giuliani’s advisers are in more frequent touch with powerful upstate leaders who have a keen grasp of the dynamics of statewide races. Indeed, three of Mr. Giuliani’s top aides-Messrs. Teitelbaum, Goodman and Luntz-recently journeyed to Albany for a closed-door strategy meeting with Mr. Powers and Mr. Bruno.
“They’re kind of a sounding board,” said one person close to the Mayor.
Mayoral advisers see the two upstate leaders as key political allies. The two men control vast swaths of the state Republican machine. And they were instrumental in persuading Gov. George Pataki to abandon his tacit support for Representative Rick Lazio of Long Island, who was threatening a primary against Mr. Giuliani.