WASHINGTON – Democratic presidential candidate Joe Lieberman (search) will hit the TV airwaves this week for the first time in his campaign, using two ads in New Hampshire to highlight his tax plan and criticize President Bush's policies in Iraq.
The ad rollout is part of a strategic shift that has the Connecticut senator focusing his efforts - and his money - on New Hampshire and other early voting states in place of Iowa, which he abandoned just over a week ago.
The two 30-second spots, dubbed the "On the Road with Joe" series, will start airing Wednesday in New Hampshire. They are not the biographic spots campaigns usually run first. Instead, Lieberman sits in a diner booth and talks directly into the camera about two issues in the news.
"We thought it was more important to have a conversation," said Mandy Grunwald, Lieberman's media consultant. "It's not that we assume everyone knows everything about Joe Lieberman, because they don't."
She said the series will run for several weeks and is the largest ad buy on the air in New Hampshire this week, but she would not disclose the cost.
Lieberman is the fifth candidate in the nine-way field of Democrats to run TV commercials. Combined, the other four -- Howard Dean of Vermont, Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri and Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina -- have spent more than $6 million on ads already, nearly a third of that in media markets that reach New Hampshire voters.
Most polls show Dean with double-digit leads over Kerry in New Hampshire. Lieberman usually is grouped in the middle with Edwards, Gephardt and retired Gen. Wesley Clark of Arkansas, who also has not yet run ads.
"Some of them have been here more often and a whole bunch of them have already been on television, but it's a race that remains undecided," Lieberman told The Associated Press in an interview Monday during his first trip to New Hampshire since deciding to skip Iowa's caucuses (search).
He said he would use the ads to speak directly and informally to New Hampshire residents.
"When you see them you'll see they're a little bit different," Lieberman said.
The tax ad will outline Lieberman's plan to restructure the income tax code (search) by cutting rates for the middle class while raising them for the wealthy.
The Iraq spot will highlight what Lieberman calls Bush's "absence of integrity" in foreign policy decisions. It also will target some of his Democratic opponents who have supported the war but opposed Bush's request for $87 billion to rebuild Iraq.
Lieberman told the AP in an interview last week that unlike others in the field, he was going to be disciplined with his spending because he was "a different kind of candidate."
He said he wasn't concerned that his some of his rivals have been on the air in New Hampshire for months and noted that some of them have seen their poll numbers improve little despite large ad buys there.