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Wednesday, October 28, 1998 Published at 17:31 GMT

Republican ads attack Clinton

The Lewinsky affair continues to haunt the Democrats

The Clinton sex scandal has become the focus for a last-minute advertising blitz by the Republican Party in the week before the mid-term congressional elections.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]The $10m television campaign represents a sudden reversal of strategy for the Republicans in their drive to widen their 11-seat lead in the House of Representatives. Up to now, party campaigners have avoided mentioning the president's relationship with Monica Lewinsky for fear of a negative reaction from voters weary of the scandal and the looming impeachment hearings

But after debating strategy throughout the weekend, officials at the National Republican Congressional Committee decided that recent surveys showed enough evidence that the scandal weighed heavily on the minds of voters they were trying to reach.

While many potential voters were revolted by the explicit detail of Kenneth Starr's investigation into the affair, the Republicans have a more subtle approach for the campaign. The first ads aired on Tuesday night.

One advertisement begins with Mr Clinton talking economic matters, and closes him wagging a finger at the camera as he promises he "did not have sexual relations with that woman, with Miss Lewinsky"

In another spot, two mothers discuss the difficulties of telling their children about the matter, and includes the comment: "It's wrong. For seven months he lied to us."

This advertisement is aimed at surburban women who are important swing voters.

A third advertisment running only in certain marginal southern states poses the question: "Should we reward Bill Clinton? Should we make the Democrats more powerful?"

The clear but subtle reference to the Lewinsky affair comes at the end: "Should we reward not telling the truth? That is the question of this election: Reward Bill Clinton. Or, vote Republican."

The campaign argues that a Republican-dominated Congress is "the balance we need" against an untrustworthy president, and the veiled references to the scandal are put alongside messages about positive Republican achievements.

"These ads spell out very clearly for the public what the differences are between Republicans and Democrats in terms of what direction we want to lead the country," National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Mary Crawford said.

The softly-softly approach is not fooling the opposition. Dan Sallick, communications director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said the new campaign "just proves what we suspected all along, which is that this Republican Congress is obsessed by scandal and investigating the president."

Olivia Morgan, spokeswoman for the National Democratic Congressinal Committee, called the campaign "a $10m excuse for their failure to address issues that people actually care about."

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