Published March 26, 2004
| Associated Press
WASHINGTON – President Bush, fearing political backlash over the loss of U.S. jobs, casts Democratic rival John Kerry as a tax-raising threat to the American economy in a new television commercial airing Thursday.
"John Kerry's (search) economic record: Troubling," says the announcer in a 30-second ad the campaign planned to release Thursday.
The ad, obtained by The Associated Press, accuses Kerry of voting in the Senate to increase taxes on Social Security (search) benefits, opposing small businesses tax credits and supporting a 50-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax increase. It also says he would raise taxes by $900 billion, a charge denied by Kerry's campaign.
"And that's just his first 100 days," the announcer says. Bush speaks only at the beginning of the commercial to say he approved the ad.
As in past commercials and criticism, the Bush campaign drives home its point by making assumptions about the Democrat's policies and scouring his 19-year Senate record for vulnerabilities. Kerry has accused Bush of distorting the facts; Republicans say his past votes and statements are fair game.
The ad addresses a major vulnerability for Bush. A recent AP poll showed that the economy is the most important issue to voters, and 53 percent of them believe Kerry is best suited to create jobs.
More than 2.2 million jobs have been lost since Bush took office, many in the states that will determine who wins in November.
National security is the No. 2 issue, and 58 percent of voters trust Bush the most to protect the nation, according to the survey conducted for the AP by Ipsos-Public Affairs. Bush's previous negative ad questioned Kerry's military views.
Bush is spending at least $6 million a week to run network TV commercials at heavy levels in 18 states. The new negative ad, called "Differences," also has been produced in Spanish. It will be released along with "21st Century," a positive new ad designed to burnish Bush's image, officials said.
Kerry is spending more than $2 million a week on an ad designed to tout his Vietnam War service and domestic policies. Democratic interests groups are airing ads heavily critical of Bush in 17 key states.
In the president's positive ad, Bush looks into the camera as he talks about "changing times" and outlines policies to help small businesses, cut taxes and train workers. Bush advisers said the ad shows that the president won't cede economic issues to Kerry, especially amid signs that the economy is improving.
"I'm optimistic about America because I believe in the people of America," Bush says with his wife, Laura, at his side.
In the negative ad, parts of the script flash on screen along with pictures of voters -- two people looking at a prescription bottle, a waitress, a couple doing their taxes, and someone swiping a credit card at a gasoline pump.
Kerry has never proposed a $900 billion tax increase, as the ad suggests. The Bush administration, which has overseen the loss of government surpluses and an explosion of deficits, comes up with the $900 billion figure by calculating the cost of Kerry's programs. Kerry left himself open to criticism by failing to detail the cost of his promises.
While slapping price tags on Kerry's policies, the White House hasn't explained gaps in its own fiscal 2005 budget, including the cost of war in Iraq and Afghanistan next year. Bush also hasn't accounted for the $1 trillion in transition costs of his proposal for partial privatization of Social Security
Kerry voted for a 4.3-cent increase in the per-gallon gas tax in 1993, defending it as a way to reduce the deficit. In 1994, he referred to his "support for a 50-cent increase in the gas tax" in a comment to the Boston Globe. He later said he no longer held that view, and he noted that he had never proposed or voted for it.