Kerry Ads Explain Priorities, Strategy

Democrat John Kerry (search) outlines his plans for a "safe and secure" America and for the nation's involvement in Iraq in two new campaign commercials meant to introduce the relatively unknown presidential candidate to voters.

"My priorities are jobs and health care. My commitment is to defend this country," Kerry says in one ad. In the other, he says he would "reach out to the international community in sharing the burden" in Iraq.

Running in 17 battleground states starting Wednesday, the 30-second television ads are considered by Kerry's campaign to be the first major launch of his general election ads, even though the candidate has been running modest levels of ads, mainly criticizing President Bush, since early March.

Kerry's campaign boosted advertising spending significantly for the new commercials, the first in a series meant to flesh out Kerry's proposals and biography, according to campaign officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. One said Kerry's spending now is even with Bush's current buy, which is about $4 million over 10 days. A biographical Kerry ad is to follow in the coming weeks.

Voters are just starting to get to know the four-term senator, and Bush's campaign has tried to define Kerry through ads that portray the Democrat as a serial tax raiser, a flip-flopper on a range of issues and a soft-on-terrorism lawmaker.

Kerry now is trying to define himself by detailing his plans to "build a stronger America," as he says in one ad.

"First, we will keep this country safe and secure. Second, I'll put an end to tax incentives that encourage American companies to ship jobs overseas. And third, we'll invest in education and health care," Kerry says.

In the other spot, Kerry lays out his proposal "to change the situation in Iraq," where 100 Americans have died in combat in April, the deadliest month since the U.S.-led invasion a year ago. The ad comes amid decisions by Spain and Honduras to pull out their troops from Iraq, and as Bush's campaign airs an ad accusing Kerry of waffling on military issues.

"I would immediately reach out to the international community in sharing the burden, the risk, because they also have a stake in the outcome of what is happening in Iraq," Kerry says in the ad. "The American taxpayer is paying now almost 200 billion dollars and who knows how many more billions, and we're paying the highest price in the loss of lives of our young soldiers, almost alone."

The Democrat talks directly to the camera in both commercials. Neither ad mentions Bush, unlike Kerry's previous general election commercials that mostly reacted to claims in the president's ads.

The new ads are the first produced solely by the Washington firm, Shrum, Devine, Donilon, which had been sharing creative responsibilities with another firm headed by media consultant Jim Margolis until a contract dispute fractured the partnership.