WASHINGTON – President Bush's television ad campaign will begin with the positive, focusing on the Republican incumbent's leadership, before turning negative as the re-election team focuses on John Kerry's (search) decades-long record of public service.
The campaign plans to unveil its television commercials after Democrats settle on a nominee, which has taken longer than some Bush advisers had expected because John Edwards (search) continues to challenge Kerry.
Once it starts running ads sometime in the spring, the campaign plans to spend a large chunk of the $100 million it has designated for states that were competitive in 2000. The first ads will focus on Bush's "steady leadership in changing and dangerous times," said Terry Holt, spokesman for the Bush-Cheney (search) re-election campaign.
"We will contrast the president's leadership, and we will talk about the two most important issues that face the country: the (Iraq) war and the economy," Holt said. "The record suggests that on those two most important issues, the Democratic candidates are wrong for America."
Advisers say some ads will focus on Kerry's 19-year Senate career, as well as his time as a House candidate and years as Massachusetts' lieutenant governor, and likely will compare votes and quotes then with his recent statements.
David Wade, a Kerry spokesman, said the campaign is ready for "below-the-belt politics" from "the Bush attack machine."
"If the say-one-thing and do-another administration wants to have a debate over clarity and consistency, Terry Holt can name the date and pick the location," Wade said. "Everyday this administration's credibility gap grows wider. We can't wait to debate this right-wing gang."
The campaign and the Republican National Committee (search) have been testing a line of attack against Kerry over the past few weeks that portrays the four-term Massachusetts senator as a liberal whose rhetoric often conflicts with his record or statements in the past.
"It's about hypocrisy," Matthew Dowd, the Bush-Cheney campaign's chief strategist in charge of polling and media, said recently. "Part of what this campaign is going to do is hold him accountable for what he says and what he actually does."
GOP chairman Ed Gillespie (search), in speeches, has criticized Kerry for voting in favor of Bush's education and Iraq policies then railing against them as a candidate. Gillespie also has juxtaposed Kerry's record in the Senate of "advocating policies that would weaken our national security" with his military service.
And, the Bush-Cheney campaign sent a Web video message to 6 million supporters -- and news media outlets -- last week that tried to portray Kerry as beholden to special interests even as he campaigns against them. The title, "Unprincipled, Chapter 1," indicates that there will be more such videos to come as they try to build their case against Kerry.
Wade called it sad that Bush made his first official campaign message a negative attack.