Attack ads proved especially effective as George Bush aggressively challenged Michael Dukakis on prison furloughs, national defense, and the polluting of Boston harbor in Dukakis' home-state of Massachusetts.
One ad showed Dukakis looking uncomfortable riding a tank. Another showed prisoners going in and out of jail through a revolving door to criticize Governor Dukakis' granting of furloughs to prisoners. Furloughs were the subject of the most controversial ad of the election. "Willie Horton" told the story of a prisoner furloughed from Massachusetts who committed a heinous crime in another state. The ad used a menacing mug shot of an African-American criminal and was widely denounced as appealing to racial prejudices.
The ad was also controversial because it was not produced by the Bush campaign. A political action committee not affiliated with Bush paid for the ad in an early example of outside groups using ads to effect an election.
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