CLOQUET, Minn. – Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (search) is boosting spending on television ads in must-win states like Ohio and Florida this month and won't run spots in GOP-leaning Arkansas and Louisiana, where he had been on the air.
Kerry will spend $14 million on campaign commercials in July, several million dollars less than he spent in previous months because the campaign isn't running ads in most places during the July 4 weekend. The campaign also won't be on the air during part of the July 26-29 Democratic National Convention (search), which will dominate the news and amplify Kerry's message.
Kerry returned to the campaign trail Friday after two days off, beginning a Fourth of July weekend bus tour of small Midwestern towns in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. Rural America has been hurt by President Bush's record on education, trade, budget cuts and health care, said Kerry, who criticized the Bush administration's assertion that the economy is in good shape.
"They say this is the best we can do. They've even called us pessimists. Well, I say, the most pessimistic thing you can say is that America can't do better," Kerry said. "Don't tell us losing 1,300 dairy farms in Minnesota is the best we can do. In 2004, we have to bring back our mighty dream again. We have to make America all that it can become."
The Kerry campaign, which will be going on and off states on a rolling basis between now and the election, likely will return to airwaves in Arkansas and Louisiana later, spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said.
"The fact is whoever wins Ohio and Florida takes the race," Cutter said. Ohio has 20 electoral votes and Florida, which decided the 2000 election, has 27.
Since early March, Kerry's campaign has spent nearly $2 million on ads in Louisiana, which has nine electoral votes, and almost $1.5 million in Arkansas, which has six. Bush won both states in 2000.
Kerry's campaign has not determined what ads it will run when it goes back on the air in full-force next week, but advisers said any ads will continue to be positive, highlighting Kerry's background and agenda.
The Democrat had been on the air in local media markets in 20 states and nationally on cable networks until this week, when he paused his advertising because of expected low viewership over the holiday. Bush also suspended his ads, off the air in most places for nearly two weeks.
Both candidates are running ads in one media market only, Albuquerque, N.M. Kerry went up with a new ad there this week to counter a Republican interest group's ad assailing him on his foreign policy experience. On Thursday, Bush responded to Kerry's commercial with an ad criticizing the Democrat.
Cutter said the campaign isn't likely to boost spending on ads this month even though Kerry can't spend private donations after the convention.
In June, Kerry collected $34 million and boosted his record total to more than $180 million.
He has about a month of fund raising left before he receives about $75 million in taxpayer funding when the general election campaign begins on July 29 when he is nominated at the convention in Boston. That's the only money Kerry will be allowed to spend campaigning until the Nov. 2 election.
Kerry, the first Democrat to opt out of public financing and its $45 million spending limit for the primary season, holds the Democratic record for the most money raised and spent in a presidential primary campaign.
His total includes a $6 million personal loan, and he must decide by the time of the convention whether to use campaign contributions to pay off a mortgage he took out on his Boston home to finance the loan.
Bush is setting an overall record for presidential money raised and spent. He has collected more than $220 million and is on track to surpass $250 million by the time of the GOP convention in late August.