President Bush (search) and the Democratic Party are rushing out millions of dollars of new political commercials on the heels of John Kerry's (search) nomination, ending a brief convention-week respite from the campaign air wars.
Making its first foray into presidential TV advertising, the Democratic National Committee (search) will roll out a new ad Saturday that tries to protect Kerry's expected post-convention bounce and make the case that Kerry can lead a country at war.
The ad shows part of Kerry's acceptance speech and was created in less than 12 hours.
"I defended this country as a young man and I will defend it as president," Kerry says while standing at the FleetCenter podium. "We need a strong military and we need strong alliances, and then we will be able to tell the terrorists you will lose and we will win. The future doesn't belong to fear, it belongs to freedom."
Bush returns to the airwaves early next week with an ad campaign that officials say stresses themes of his new stump speech — that the incumbent Republican is a can-do leader and that Kerry has not earned the right to replace him.
His re-election campaign has bought about $14 million worth of airtime to run commercials in local media markets in 19 battleground states over the first two weeks of August and on cable channels throughout the month.
To conserve resources for later in the race, the Republican is pulling down his ads in GOP-leaning North Carolina after going up on the air there protectively when Kerry did in July just after naming a senator from the Southern state, John Edwards, as his running mate.
The DNC ads, paid for by the party's independent expenditure office that can't legally coordinate strategy with Kerry's campaign, cost $6 million over a week and come just as the Democratic nominee stops advertising until September to save money for the homestretch.
The ad will ensure Bush isn't the only candidate on the air in August.
"Make no mistake. We're trying to be helpful to the John Kerry campaign. We want to help get him elected," said Ellen Moran, who leads the DNC's independent expenditure office. "We always had the idea that we would likely need to advertise in August due to the obvious discrepancy in the public money John Kerry has compared with George Bush."
Since securing the nomination in March, Kerry has spent more than $80 million on advertising from a campaign war chest of $200 million in private donations.
However, now that Kerry is the Democratic nominee, he is barred from spending any of that money because he accepted public funding for the general election. That means he can spend only $75 million in taxpayer money between now and Nov. 2, putting him at a disadvantage.
Bush also accepted public financing, but the president has five more weeks to spend freely from his private donations before he accepts his nomination at the Republican convention and the spending limit kicks in for him.
So, Kerry went dark to conserve money to make the advertising playing field as even as possible come September.
The DNC, which has at least $60 million in the bank and is working to raise $100 million more, is filling in for him.
The ads will run on cable networks as well as in local media markets in 19 of the states where Kerry had been on the air in July, and Delaware, a historically Democratic state where Bush is on the air, also will see some DNC spots. However, none will run in local media markets in Arkansas or Louisiana, two Southern GOP-leaning states that saw a combined $3 million worth of Kerry ads before he went dark in both this month.
Liberal interest groups, the Media Fund, MoveOn.org and the New Democrat Network, also plan to help ensure a Democratic presence is on the air next month. Those groups, and others including the AFL-CIO (search), helped keep Kerry afloat in the spring when he came out of the primary season nearly broke as Bush pounded him on the air.
Excluding the newest buy, Bush has spent more than $90 million on ads since March when he rolled out his general election ads that initially portrayed him as a steady leader during challenging economic and war times. He quickly switched gears with waves of ads that portrayed Kerry as a soft-on-terrorism, tax-raising, flip-flopping, pessimistic liberal.
He taped the new commercials at his 1,600-acre Crawford, Texas, ranch on Wednesday.