WASHINGTON – Following the lead of President Bush's (search) political team, John Kerry's (search) presidential campaign will launch a new television ad Saturday that broadly refers to his party's agenda and gives him access to as much Democratic National Committee (search) money as he wants.
"John Kerry and the Democrats have a plan" for the middle class, the ad says, while claiming "big differences" between the party's economic agenda and that of "George Bush and Republicans in Congress."
Kerry's campaign and the DNC are splitting the $2.5 million cost of airing the ad in 14 competitive states. Kerry's campaign alone also is spending roughly $4.5 million on ads over the week.
Democrats adopted the joint advertising strategy after learning that Bush's advisers had figured out a way to orchestrate a larger ad campaign than thought possible under the campaign finance reform law.
The law limits overall spending by presidential candidates to about $75 million for the general election campaign. The political parties also can spend another $16 million on campaign activities — including TV and radio ads — in coordination with their presidential candidates.
The president's campaign says he can tap as much party money as he wants so long as his ads mention other candidates for Congress.
Bush must pay for part of the ad out of his $75 million spending limit, but his campaign gains the ability to control party money beyond the $16 million limit.
Seeing the benefits, Kerry campaign followed suit.
Its new ad shows the senator briefly before shifting to generic footage of workers, senior citizens and the front of a book called "Our Plan for America. Kerry-Edwards & The Democratic Party."
The ad accuses "George Bush and Republicans in Congress" of supporting tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas and raising Medicare premiums by 17 percent. It then claims "John Kerry and the Democrats have a plan" that includes ending those tax breaks, cutting middle class taxes and lowering health care costs.
Steve Schmidt, a Bush campaign spokesman, called the ad "misleading and baseless."
"John Kerry and the Democrats' plan is filled with ideas of the past such as raising taxes, national health care," Schmidt said, adding that their proposals "will end the economic recovery."
Debra DeShong, a Kerry campaign spokeswoman, said the broader message in the new ad is meant "to tell the American people that John Kerry and the Democratic Party have the plans and core values it takes to move America forward."
But it's clear that Kerry's campaign plugged in the phrase "and the Democratic Party" to enable it to determine how best to spend the party's money. At the start of this month, the DNC had $56 million on hand compared with $93 million for the RNC.
Party officials are discussing whether to continue the DNC's independent advertising operation that has spent $50 million so far to supplement Kerry's commercials. That operation has to pay for its own research and salaries and can't have any contact under the law with the candidate's campaign.
However, its ads can be entirely about Kerry.
Kerry's campaign will continue running its own commercials solely about Kerry. On Friday, his campaign rolled out a new TV ad that uses Bush's words to criticize the incumbent. It shows Bush on Thursday during a Rose Garden news conference saying, "I saw a poll that said the 'right track-wrong track' in Iraq was better than here in America."
The ad continues: "The right track? Americans are being kidnapped, held hostage, even beheaded. Over a thousand American soldiers have died. And George Bush has no plan to get us out of Iraq."