WASHINGTON – The Bush-Cheney campaign will spend this month presenting President Bush's vision for a second term in least $18 million worth of commercials, including some praising the Republican for "moving America forward."
The campaign is changing course after airing five months of ads that labeled Democrat John Kerry (search) a flip-flopping liberal.
Bush's strategists believe they successfully defined Kerry that way. Now they want to devote most of their commercials to outlining what Bush would try to accomplish in a second term. They believe that while incumbents can soften their opponents with negative ads, a president with a positive, forward-looking plan seals the deal.
Still, the strategists said they still may air a little negative advertising before the White House race enters the homestretch this fall.
Two new Bush-Cheney TV ads started running Tuesday in local media markets in 19 battleground states, where they are scheduled to be shown for two to three weeks.
The re-election campaign on Tuesday poured more money into six states for August — Florida, Ohio, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and New Mexico. And the campaign also bought airtime to run radio ads in battleground states.
The TV ads also will run on national cable networks during the month. And, in a first for either presidential campaign this year, some ads will air on local cable channels in specific media markets in at least two states — New Mexico and Nevada. That will allow the campaign to target viewers both by where they live and by what programs they watch.
Bush is advertising over a period that will include the heavily watched Olympic Games.
His new TV ads are similar to the first wave of commercials he ran briefly in the spring, heralding his "steady leadership" in changing times. His campaign quickly abandoned that approach, choosing instead to air spots criticizing Kerry.
Now, Bush's new commercials are solely about the mood of the country and Bush's re-election agenda, even as they lack details about those proposals.
However, the ads do work to set the stage for the Republican nominating convention later this month in New York City. They subtly argue that the United States should keep Bush in office as the nation recovers from wartime and economic woes.
"What gives us optimism and hope? Freedom, faith, families and sacrifice," says one commercial. Another says, "In today's changing world the answers aren't easy. We need a sense of purpose, a vision for the future, the conviction to do what's right."
Kerry spokesman Chad Clanton questioned the claim that Bush is "moving America forward."
"We've got sky-high health insurance costs, record-high deficits, record job losses, record-high gas prices and no plan to win the peace in Iraq. And the president thinks he's 'moving America forward?' No wonder this White House has lost credibility," Clanton said.
Bush's ads come as Kerry has stopped advertising until September to save money. But independent Democratic groups are filling the void even though they're not allowed to 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 is spending $6 million in 20 competitive states and on national cable networks to broadcast an ad in which Kerry argues he can lead a nation at war. Separately, the Media Fund, a liberal interest group, is running five TV ads in five swing states — Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada and New Mexico — costing $2.5 million over a week.