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Spot check

Editor's note: As the race for governor builds to a climax, Florida voters will be bombarded with advertisements from the candidates. As the ads appear, they will be described and analyzed by the St. Petersburg Times.Candidate: Gov. Bob Martinez, Republican seeking re-election.

Opponent: Lawton Chiles, Democrat

Producer of ads: National Media, Alex Castellanos

The first ad: Barbara Bush appears on camera with a picture of President Bush on a desk in the background. "You know I have family in Florida, so I care about who's elected governor. And Bob Martinez is a man I trust."

The scene switches to Martinez in a classroom talking to grade-school children. "He created Florida's drug-free school zones," Mrs. Bush says in the background. "Wasn't that a good idea?"

The scene switches to Martinez chatting with police officers at night. "He's got the strength and the energy a governor needs to fight crime and drugs," she says. The camera then is back on Mrs. Bush.

"I can't vote for Bob Martinez, but I wish I could, and I hope you will. He's a good man and a good governor."

Analysis: The remarkable thing about this ad is not who is in it. It's who is missing. The Martinez campaign chose to focus on Mrs. Bush, not the president _ at least for now. "Well, because Barbara Bush is about the realest person in America," says J.M. "Mac" Stipanovich, the governor's campaign manager.

Mrs. Bush, whose son, Jeb, lives with his family in Miami, is indeed popular, and perhaps more popular than the president these days. Republican candidates around the country have pointedly drawn a line between their positions and that of the president when the talk turned to the new budget. Abandoning his opposition to new taxes, Bush has said he will sign the new federal budget, which raises taxes on beer, cigarettes and income for most people.

As Mrs. Bush notes, Martinez was indeed a driving force behind the 1989 Drug Free School Zone law, which requires a three-year minimum mandatory sentence for anyone convicted of buying or selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a public or private school. But he didn't quite "create" the law _ 139 legislators voted for it.

With the mention of Martinez's "strength" and "energy," Mrs. Bush appears to allude to the 60-year-old Chiles' decision to leave the Senate in 1988 because of what he called "burnout" over his frustration with the legislative process.

The second ad: Martinez is shown in a classroom and then a playground with grade-school children. "Only one is the teacher who created our drug-free school zones," an announcer says.

The governor walks along a beach at sunset. "Only one pushed through the biggest land-saving plan in state history to protect Florida's environment," the announcer says.

The camera moves from a shot of the governor at a news conference, to a close-up of the state's electric chair, to an inmate driving a stake into the ground and then to a prison guard in a tower. "Only one has enforced Florida's death penalty and doubled prison construction to protect our families from crime," the announcer says.

Martinez is shown working at his desk and then talking with a group of seniors. "Only one is fighting a statewide tax increase that could hurt people on fixed incomes and cost Florida jobs," the announcer says.

Finally, Martinez is shown talking with police officers. "Can-do leadership. That's the difference. Re-elect Bob Martinez," the announcer concludes.

Analysis: With Election Day just a week away, this is an ad that sums up some favorite themes of the Martinez campaign.

Fighting drugs: Another mention of a law cited in the Barbara Bush ad.

Preserving the environment: Martinez pushed hard for Preservation 2000, a 10-year program of environmental land-buying approved by the Legislature this year. But whether it will live up to its promise is unclear; the law creating it provides for only a year's worth of financing.

Death penalty: As Florida's chief executive, Martinez has carried out the death penalty. During his term, eight people have been executed. When Bob Graham was governor (1979-87), one person was executed during his first term and 15 during his second.

Prison construction: More than 28,000 new beds have been authorized since Martinez took office, but it isn't quite accurate to suggest Floridians are safer than they were four years ago. Because of skyrocketing prison admissions, inmates now serve about one-third of their sentences. Four years ago, they served about half of their sentences.

Taxes: Fending off a "statewide tax increase" doesn't mean taxes won't go up. Martinez ran as a fiscal conservative in 1986, then presided over two of the biggest tax increases in state history.

With the election only days away, and still apparently close, the Martinez campaign plans a heavy barrage of TV and radio advertising. But Martinez campaign officials refused to say how much they are spending on the two ads or how long they will run.

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