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The Politically Ambidextrous Candidate

Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele will launch a Web-based political advertisement this week, the first of his campaign for U.S. Senate, which will attempt to define him as an outsider who is ready to shake things up in Washington.

The 90-second video depicts Steele on the front porch of a house, picking up a copy of the morning paper.
"Everyday, the same thing. Another day's news, another scandal in Washington," he says. "We've got Congressmen on the take and lobbyists eager to make a deal. The whole system's broken and they've lost all respect for things important to us."

As has been his custom during the campaign, Steele does not identify that he is a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Paul S. Sarbanes, and does not name any of the six Democrats vying for the seat. They include Rep. Ben Cardin and former congressman Kweisi Mfume.

Instead, as he lays out a series of proposals for ethics reform in Washington, Steele attempts to remain politically ambidextrous, telling the viewer: "We have to elect a different kind of Senator. Somebody who will talk straight about what's wrong in both parties."

Democrats have tried to deflate Steele's claims of political neutrality by brandishing his fundraising reports as evidence of his ties to the administration of President Bush. The roster of hosts for Steele fundraisers have included not only the president, but also top Bush aides Karl Rove and Andrew Card, Vice President Dick Cheney, and the president's brother Marvin and parents, George H. W. and Barbara Bush.

Still, Steele's proposals should catch some second glances from Capitol Hill, including one to ban all gifts to those in congress and another to create a four-year, cooling-off period during which departing members and their staffers cannot work as lobbyists.

As of right now, the Steele campaign plans to e-mail the clip to supporters and put it on their web site, and aides said it will appear on select websites in the coming days.

Matt Mosk

By Phyllis Jordan  |  June 13, 2006; 6:49 AM ET
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