WASHINGTON – President Bush will expand his campaign advertising to Louisiana and Colorado this week, following rival John Kerry's (search) decision to launch TV commercials in the two GOP-friendly states.
Bush's re-election campaign plans to run two previously released ads that assail Kerry on taxes and terrorism while the Democratic challenger airs biographical commercials that don't mention Bush.
Local media markets in Louisiana and Colorado had not been included in Bush's advertising onslaught because they were considered likely wins for the Republican incumbent. However, Bush was all but forced to go on the air there in an attempt to keep Kerry from making inroads with unanswered advertising. Bush ads already are airing on local broadcast channels in 18 other states and nationally on cable networks.
Kerry ran ads for the first time in Louisiana and Colorado on Tuesday and is spending about $1 million over three weeks in each state as part of a $25 million biographical ad campaign that traces his life from Yale to Vietnam to the U.S. Senate. He's now on the air in media markets in 19 states and national cable channels.
In both Louisiana and Colorado, Bush will run one ad that criticizes Kerry's vote against $87 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan and another that takes him to task on taxes.
The forays into Louisiana and Colorado mean the race for the White House will be played out in more than the 17 battleground states that were won by tight margins in 2000.
Matthew Dowd, the Bush campaign's chief strategist, said a broader playing field works to Bush's advantage and that the campaign feels "fairly confident" about both states. However, Dowd said: "We're not going to take anything for granted."
Bush won Louisiana and Colorado comfortably four years ago, but Kerry's advisers think both states have become more attractive to Democrats, particularly because of the loss of manufacturing jobs there under Bush's administration.
"We believe John Kerry can win both states," said Tad Devine, a Kerry campaign strategist.
Still, that feat won't be easy.
Louisiana voted for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996 and has two Democratic U.S. senators — although one is retiring — and a Democratic governor. But the gap Kerry needs to close is wide. In mid-March, an independent poll showed Kerry trailing Bush by 14 points, his closest margin there so far this year.
Colorado often has been a GOP stronghold in presidential races, although Ross Perot's candidacy helped Clinton win the state in 1992. As of April, there were roughly 150,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats.
Democrats hope Ken Salazar, Colorado's Hispanic attorney general, wins the Democratic nomination for the open Senate race there, which could help energize Hispanics in the fall.
Meanwhile, some of the liberal interest groups that have been running anti-Bush ads say they're likely to put some of that money toward get-out-the-vote efforts because Kerry's fund raising has picked up since he emerged as the likely Democratic nominee. Kerry raised close to $60 million in the first quarter, a record that included $44 million in March.
The Media Fund, which has been advertising against Bush in media markets in 17 states, said it will scale back its advertising starting this week, which officials say had been the plan all along.
Said Erik Smith, the group's executive director: "We completed our eight-week national flight, which cost more than $20 million, and now we're going to focus on some more specific markets that we think need more attention."