PITTSBURGH – Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry (search) started airing television ads Wednesday in running mate John Edwards' home state, Republican-leaning North Carolina, as the campaign rolled out a new wave of commercials. The ads say Kerry will "fight for the middle class," while being "tough and smart" on the war on terror.
"We shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them down in our own communities," Kerry says in one ad.
The new crop of 30-second ads includes one unveiled Tuesday featuring Kerry and Edwards as "a new team for America." It's saturating airwaves in North Carolina for at least a week and also is on the air in other states and nationally on cable.
"One is a combat veteran with over 30 years of experience handling the toughest issues facing America," Kerry's ad says. "The other is the son of a mill worker who all his life has stood up for ordinary people against powerful interests."
The foray into North Carolina — a state President Bush won by 13 points in 2000 — came a day after Kerry announced Edwards as his vice presidential pick. Democrats say Edwards may help put his traditionally GOP state — and its 15 electoral votes — in play, along with other Southern venues. Advertising could help Democrats close the gap.
Kerry will spend $17 million to run ads in July that attempt to further flesh out Kerry's domestic and foreign policy agenda. The ads don't mention Bush, but they attempt to subtly contrast his proposals with Kerry's.
Two ads describe Kerry as "a man of faith," "a husband and father" and "a hunter." All those labels attempt to soften Kerry's image as a liberal from Massachusetts and appeal to non-Democrats.
Other ads attempt to reach working class Americans who Kerry argues haven't benefited from recent job growth.
One ad focuses on taxes, with Kerry pledging to "fight for the middle class of America." In another about outsourcing of jobs, Kerry tells how he's met "steelworkers and mineworkers and autoworkers who are now laid-off workers."
While Kerry unleashed the new ads, Bush remained dark in most places.
After a couple of weeks of being off the air in most places, Bush went back up on national cable networks — albeit at small levels — on Tuesday with an ad painting Edwards as Kerry's second choice behind maverick Republican Sen. John McCain. The campaign, which sought to deflate Kerry's announcement of Edwards, says it plans to run the ad in media markets in states, but so far Bush isn't running it any of the 20 states where he had been on the air previously.
Democrats countered with an Internet ad highlighting differences between Bush and McCain on issues ranging from taxes to Iraq to the environment. McCain was Bush's chief rival for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000.
Kerry's campaign later referenced the new Republican ad in a fund-raising e-mail to supporters. "Every time they have launched an attack on John Kerry, you have stepped up and fought back. Now they are attacking John Edwards, and we are asking you to come through once again," says the e-mail, signed by Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill.
McCain, in an interview with The Associated Press, said he has refrained from saying anything negative about Kerry and his campaign "and I hope they wouldn't use anything I have said about President Bush in the past."
Both campaigns largely backed off major campaign ad buys leading up to the Fourth of July, with competing ads in New Mexico the exception. Before that, the campaigns and independent groups spent freely.
The Bush campaign spent more than $80 million on ads, many of them negative messages intended to define Kerry as a flip-flopper and tax-raiser who is soft on defense. Through July, the Kerry campaign will have $80 million on ads that attempted to introduce the four-term Massachusetts senator to much of the electorate. Democratic-leaning interest groups spent an additional $40 million on advertising critical of Bush.