The ad portrays Franks as an ally of Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker who led an effort in the mid-1990s to trim several domestic programs, including Medicare and Medicaid.
It also accuses Franks of supporting the cuts, as well as proposals to get rid of federal nursing-home safety standards and providing a $40 billion taxpayer-financed subsidy to insurance companies in lieu of a prescription-drug coverage program for seniors.
"Those charges are highly misleading and, in some cases, patently untrue, but it's true to form for very rich candidates who are unable to sell their own candidacies," Franks said. "There's a very unfortunate history of very wealthy candidates seeking to sell their candidacy only to find that the voters aren't buying it, then they turn their enormous resources to discredit their opponent.
"Obviously, his efforts to convince the voters of the viability of his own candidacy came up woefully short, and now he's seeking to attack Bob Franks personally," he said. "That will, in my judgment, backfire."
The commercial signaled a shift in campaign strategy by Corzine's handlers after Corzine, who has an estimated net worth of $400 million and spent $35 million in the Democratic primary, endured three weeks of negative press. In the last month, he has had to answer questions over his refusal to release his income-tax returns, his spotty voting record, and contributions to organizations that later endorsed him.
Attempts to reach Corzine spokesman Tom Shea were unsuccessful last night.
Last week, Steve DeMicco, Corzine's campaign comanager, said: "We had always planned to introduce Bob Franks to the voters of New Jersey at around this time. "We are showing voters the stark contrast that exists between the record of Bob Franks and the progressive agenda of Jon Corzine."
Franks' response to the commercial came after a rally for him and a Republican colleague, U.S. Rep. James Saxton, inside a gymnasium at Lenape High School in Medford that featured Arizona's McCain, a former presidential candidate. Saxton is running in the highly competitive Third Congressional District race against Democrat Susan Bass Levin, the mayor of Cherry Hill.
Other Republicans who came to lend support yesterday were Senate President Donald T. DiFrancesco (R., Union) and State Sens. Diane Allen (R., Burlington) and Martha Bark (R., Burlington).
McCain, placating a crowd composed of many veterans because of nearby Fort Dix and the McGuire Air Force Base, talked at length about his military background, the need to provide more benefits to veterans, and how Republicans George W. Bush and running mate Dick Cheney would strengthen the military if elected to the White House. He referred to Franks and Saxton as "two fine gentlemen." McCain served with Saxton in the House for four years before winning election to the Senate.
As cosponsor of the McCain-Feingold bill on campaign-finance reform, McCain also seized the opportunity to knock Corzine's wealth and recent ad.
"People don't vote when they have doubts about the character and integrity of the candidate," McCain said. "And they don't vote because of negative attack ads."
Suzette Parmley's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org