ATLANTA--While Democrats inside the Omni Center are lambasting Vice President George Bush, a group of Republican lawmakers is in town returning the volley.
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has assembled a formidable "truth squad," including Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole (R-Kan.), New Hampshire Governor John Sununu, and a host of other congressmen to crow about the Reagan administration's accomplishments and question Dukakis' record.
The NRCC is spending about $45,000 on this "Republican Media Center," according to Center director Rich Galen.
Sununu, here Tuesday, tried to paint Dukakis as an ultraliberal. "Dukakis' strategy is to try and hide his roots as a successor to Mondale and McGovern," Sununu said in an interview.
The New Hampshire Republican also ridiculed the Democratic Party Platform, calling it "eight or nine pages of bland misdirection."
Sununu scoffed at the notion of a "Massachusetts Miracle," charging that Governor Dukakis is hiding "a record of poor economic performance in Massachusetts."
Though the center is located just a few floors above the Rev. Jesse Jackson's campaign headquarters, Galen insists the Republican presence is "not confrontational." Nor is the Grand Old Party trying to steal all the limelight, Galen maintains. "It's their show. They've got center stage. All we're doing is peeking out from behind the stage."
"A Tough Race"
Republicans, worried that they may lose the White House for the first time since 1980, have gone on the attack. "We're going into this thing very scared," said Representative Don Sundquist (R-Tenn). "I think we have to assume it's gonna be a tough race, and we must do everything we can to win it."
Americans, Sundquist said, should take the "safest path" and send another Republican to the Oval Office. "Why take a chance when things are going well."
Criticizing Dukakis for borrowing $8 billion to help alleviate Massachusetts' budgetary woes, Sundquist asked, "What will a guy like that do with social security."
Sundquist said the Reagan administration hasn't done enough to protect the environment or improve education. "For the past eight years, we had other problems that had to be solved," he said, adding that a Bush administration would tackle these problems and "do it without raising taxes."
Congressman Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), who is co-chair of the Republican Platform Committee, was also in town, questioning the sincerity of Democrats who talk about fiscal responsibility. If Dukakis is elected President, Lewis says it will be "business as usual for the liberal Democrats: spending money and raising taxes." Lewis said his Democratic colleagues have "spent their careers building programs and spending money."
Both Lewis and Sundquist questioned the wisdom of putting Sen. Lloyd M. Bentsen (D-Tex.) on the Democratic ticket. Lewis said the decision is "opening up new opportunities for Republicans" in the cornbelt and industrial region, because they are not represented by the ticket.
Sundquist said the pick "in the long term is probably a mistake." He questioned whether the liberal Dukakis and conservative Bentsen are compatible, and noted that they take differing stances on several major issues. "The first debate ought to be between Bentsen and Dukakis....I don't think there's anything Bentsen can do that will help that much in the South."
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