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Cardin, Steele Hammer Each Other on Ties to President, Special Interests

Most of the ads have featured a black and white Boston terrier.

Steele, who is presenting himself as a “different kind of senator,” has opted for a light-hearted tone. In one advertisement, he forewarns Maryland voters about negative ads full of “grainy pictures and spooky music saying ‘Steele hates puppies,'” before telling voters he actually loves puppies while holding the terrier.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee responded with an equally tongue-in-cheek advertisement, stating, “It’s nice that Michael Steele loves puppies, but he’s running for the United States Senate, and it’s important to know where he stands on the issues.”

Cardin’s ads have asserted that Steele’s positions are in lock-step with President Bush, and the Republican Party, including his conservative views on stem-cell research and abortion. “Michael Steele,” the ad stated. “He likes puppies, but loves George Bush.”

The Steele campaign then produced a response, chastising the “nasty ads from the Washington crowd,” and saying Cardin accepts special interest funds and makes decisions based on it.

Although Steele was chairman of the Maryland Republican Party from 2000 to 2002 and has campaigned with President Bush in the past, the word “Republican” is absent from his Web site.

The Maryland Democratic Party runs a site called “The Real Steele” with pictures of the candidate with prominent Republicans.

The themes of their advertisements were echoed in a debate Tuesday, where Steele and Cardin squared off with Kevin Zeese, the anti-war candidate nominated by the Green, Libertarian and Populist parties.

Cardin reiterated his demand that Steele talk about his stance on issues, and Steele portrayed himself as a Washington outsider who will “get things done.”

Cardin emphasized his 40 years of experience as an elected official. “I’ve had more town hall meetings in the last several years than you’ve had in your whole public life,” he told Steele.

After earlier telling Cardin to “shut up and listen,” Steele claimed that he was a voice for change and that he “did not want to go to Washington to retire.”

The most substance came in their debate over the war in Iraq when Cardin said there should be a gradual withdrawal of troops with no discernable timetable. Steele said the troops should stay but the tactics should change. And Zeese called for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq.

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