Manchester, NH (CNSNews.com) - A ghost from the political past is making his presence felt in the New Hampshire Primary. He is former US Senator and 1996 GOP standard-bearer Bob Dole.
Dole has taken to the airways in the Granite State with a television spot hammering publisher Steve Forbes for engaging in negative campaigning.
The 30-second spot, paid for by the Washington, DC-based Republican Leadership Council, a group that reportedly has ties to Texas Governor George W Bush, is the third ad aimed at Forbes and paid for by the group.
The spot features an announcer quoting Dole and telling viewers, "I emerged the Republican nominee, battered, bruised, broke and as a much easier target for the negative Clinton-Gore fall campaign."
"I speak up now only because it may be happening again. I believe the Republican Party and our eventual nominee could be damaged again."
The announcer concludes the spot by saying, "Mr. Forbes, stop the negative ads. Don't help the Democrats."
In 1996, Forbes aired a series of campaign ads in New Hampshire that some observers contend resulted in Dole's losing the primary election to Patrick J Buchanan and weakened the former Kansas senator for the general election. Others insist Dole lost because he had no message and was essentially a weak candidate.
According to Mark Miller, executive director of the Republican Leadership Council, the ad was done in an effort to let people know the party must unite if it hopes to win in November.
The spot is expected to air more than 100 times between now and Tuesday, the date of the first-in-the-nation primary, on two Manchester-based commercial television stations as well as on Boston stations, all of which are seen in New Hampshire, especially in the heavily-populated southern tier of the state.
Miller said the ad is being broadcast in an effort to counter a Forbes spot that features a Texas woman accusing Bush of breaking a tax pledge and quoting the governor as saying he doesn't sign pledges.
Officials of the McCain and Forbes campaigns have joined the fray by charging the Bush campaign with being behind the ad. However, there is no firm indication the council acted on behalf of the Texas governor.
Forbes dismissed the spot as an "establishment attack" and insisted New Hampshire voters are looking for "an open, honest and vigorous debate."
Forbes insisted recent GOP standard bearers, including Dole, offered "a muffled message and no clear principled agenda, as Ronald Reagan did in the '80s."