DES MOINES, Iowa – Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards (search) planned to hit the airwaves Wednesday with his first round of television commercials in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Determined to improve on his low single-digit showing in state and national polls, the North Carolina senator will use some of the millions he raised early in the campaign on advertising.
The commercials -- two 30-second spots and one 60-second spot -- show Edwards and his family, and focus on his background as the son of a mill worker who was the first in his family to attend college. One features Edwards touting his plan to aid college students in paying tuition, and another in which he criticizes tax breaks, arguing that they encourage companies to leave the country.
"My grandmother came from a family of sharecroppers," Edwards says in one ad. "My father worked in a cotton mill all his life, and I helped out in the summers."
The spots also make the point that "George Bush, he comes from a very different place."
David Axelrod, a Chicago-based media consultant advising the campaign, said the television drive is part of a strategy in which Edwards spent the first half of the year raising money and now will try to introduce himself to voters.
Edwards raised $11.9 million in the first two quarters of fund raising, according to reports he filed with the Federal Election Commission (search), placing him second behind Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. Edwards has $8.5 million on hand.
"We've always had a plan from the beginning to spend the first half of this year raising the money we need to communicate with the American people and the second half of the year communicating with the American people," Axelrod said.
The campaign will begin rotating three separate commercials in Iowa and New Hampshire, beginning as early as Wednesday night.
Axelrod declined to put a dollar figure on the effort. "I would call it a substantial buy," he said.
With his move, Edwards becomes the second Democratic presidential candidate to take to the airwaves in key early states. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (search) launched a similar drive earlier this summer.
Polls have shown Dean at or near the top of the Democratic field in Iowa and New Hampshire. Edwards has lagged in those polls, but Axelrod dismissed suggestions that his latest effort would be viewed as a desperation effort to jump-start his campaign.
"People can interpret it as they will," he said. "We have been as disciplined as any of the campaigns in terms of sticking with our plan."
Conceding that Dean has had a couple of good months, Axelrod said Edwards is focused on the long haul.
"I'm not concerned with Governor Dean," said Axelrod. "I'm willing to concede the July Iowa caucuses to him. We're focused on the January Iowa caucuses. If he wants to be the flavor of the month that's okay with us. We need a long-term communications strategy."
Iowa's precinct caucuses scheduled for Jan. 19 will launch the presidential nominating season.