RALEIGH, N.C. – For weeks, Republicans hammered at Democratic Senate candidate Erskine Bowles for avoiding links to his former boss, President Clinton. Those attacks will become a little harder to make now.
New television ads airing this week show Bowles, a former White House chief of staff, with his old boss.
The half-minute ads tout Bowles' part in the federal response to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. They include images of bloodied victims and the bombed shell of the federal building, where 168 people died.
Both ads include a photo of Bowles sitting across a table from Clinton on Air Force One. A narrator says, "Within hours, the president turns to North Carolina's Erskine Bowles to take charge of our nation's response."
Earlier ads and campaign literature had omitted both Clinton's name and image. One even showed the candidate with Republican Sen. Trent Lott, who was Senate majority leader at the time.
"Take all the commercials together, and it's very clear that he is avoiding any association with Bill Clinton," state GOP spokesman Jonathan Jordan said Thursday.
Jordan said that the even the latest ad never refers to Clinton by name, and never mentions that Bowles worked directly for him.
"We're saying he's ducking Clinton," Jordan said. "I can't imagine anyone else having a problem with saying the name of the president he worked for."
Bowles' spokesman Brad Woodhouse said he was incredulous that the GOP is still trying to make the charge stick.
"Everyone is fully aware that Erskine worked for President Clinton," Woodhouse said. "They are also fully aware that no one has ever been harder on the president, publicly or privately, for his personal failures. He has said it was just plain wrong what the president did."
Bowles is one of nine Democrats seeking the U.S. Senate seat being given up by Republican Jesse Helms, who is retiring after 30 years. Elizabeth Dole is considered the GOP front-runner.
Among the opponents Bowles faces in the Democratic primary are Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, former state House speaker Dan Blue and former Durham City Council member Cynthia Brown.
The primary, which was scheduled for May 7, has been delayed pending a decision by the state Supreme Court over the constitutionality of new legislative districts.