WASHINGTON – After months of criticizing rival John Kerry (search) in campaign ads, the Bush-Cheney campaign is shifting gears with some $14 million in commercials that praise the Republican for "moving America forward" amid economic and terrorism challenges.
"What gives us optimism and hope? Freedom, faith, families and sacrifice," says one commercial unveiled Tuesday. Photos of firefighters, children, workers and soldiers fill the screen.
The ad, plus another unveiled last week, are similar to the first wave of commercials Bush ran briefly in the spring, heralding his "steady leadership" in changing times. Bush quickly abandoned that approach, choosing instead to air spots during the next five months that tried to define Kerry as weak-on-defense and inconsistent in his Senate votes.
Bush's two new ads do not mention Kerry but instead seek to make the case that the United States should keep the incumbent in office as the nation recovers from wartime and economic woes.
"In today's changing world the answers aren't easy," says the ad. "We need a sense of purpose, a vision for the future, the conviction to do what's right."
The new ad also includes a brief image of the wreckage of the World Trade Center towers, a scene from earlier ads that drew criticisms from some relatives of victims killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The positive ads are designed to set the stage for Bush's nominating convention later this month in New York. The commercials suggest that Bush has a vision for the future although the spots are short on specifics about his second-term agenda.
The commercials began airing Tuesday in local media markets in 19 battleground states for at least two weeks and on national cable networks for the month, a period that would include the highly watched Olympic Games. They also will air on local cable channels in specific media markets in at least two states — New Mexico and Nevada.
That strategy — a first for either presidential campaign this year — allows Bush to target voters based on where they live and what programs they watch. Thus, the Bush campaign can reach out to voters in Reno, Nev., who watch the sports cable channel ESPN, a typically young male audience.
Through mid-August, Bush will have spent more than $100 million on advertising since March, much of it on negative spots.
Bush's ads come as Kerry has stopped advertising until September to save money for the fall general election.
However, Bush isn't alone on the air as independent Democratic groups are filling the void even if they cannot coordinate with Kerry under the campaign finance law. Combined, the outside groups are helping Democrats outspend Bush in some key media markets in battleground states — at least this week.
The Democratic National Committee's independent expenditure office is spending $6 million in 20 competitive states and on national cable networks to broadcast an ad in which Kerry argues that he can lead a nation at war.
And, on Tuesday, the Media Fund, a liberal interest group, rolled out five TV ads in five swing states — Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada and New Mexico.
The group, which spent $27 million in 17 states this spring to keep Kerry competitive on the air as he rebuilt his campaign fund after the primary, says it is spending at least $2.5 million over a week to run the ads.
The commercials, three of which previously were run by affiliates of another liberal group MoveOn.org, assail Bush on the economy and the Iraq war.
Of the two new commercials, one says: "George Bush is financing the war with huge deficits, and our children will be stuck with the bill." Another accuses Bush of having "no plan" to curb health care costs.