WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kerry (search) and the Democratic Party are running more commercials than President Bush and the Republican National Committee (search) so far this week in many of the 14 states where both sides are concentrating their television advertising.
But the Democratic advantage probably will be fleeting. Both campaigns are adjusting their advertising now that the race has entered the homestretch.
Soon, Kerry and his party are likely to pull their ads out of West Virginia media markets that don't bleed into adjacent states. The campaign no longer considers it a target state because Bush has opened a wide lead, a senior official familiar with Kerry's strategy said Thursday.
The race is now focused on 10 states: Florida, Ohio, Iowa, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Minnesota. While Michigan, Oregon and Maine still are seeing heavy levels of advertising from both sides, those states appear to be leaning toward Kerry.
When ads by liberal and conservative outside groups in those 14 states are excluded, Democrats have an edge over Republicans on the air in the top prizes of the Nov. 2 election — vote-rich Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania — as well as in four Midwest states, New Mexico and Maine, according to an Associated Press analysis of airtime bought this week.
However, Bush's campaign often increases its advertising every few days depending on the results of tracking polls, and the Republican National Committee is preparing to launch millions of dollars worth of commercials in the most hotly contested states independently from the president's campaign.
Since August, Kerry has been helped on the air by the Democratic National Committee's own "independent expenditure" operation, which has spent tens of millions of dollars on TV ads.
The RNC had had the legal framework in place for such an operation for months. However, the party chose to wait until the last few weeks of the campaign, when more voters were paying attention, to pull the trigger.
Bush also is getting help late in the game from Republican-leaning organizations, which are enabling him to keep pace in some states.
In a joint effort, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (search) and POWs for Truth (search), two groups of Vietnam veterans opposed to Kerry, are running a moderate level of ads in Ohio blasting Kerry's anti-war efforts upon returning from Vietnam some 30 years ago. The groups say they plan to go on the air in Colorado and New Mexico this week as well.
Meanwhile, Progress for America's voter fund is saturating airwaves in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The organization, an affiliate of a group created by former Bush aide Tony Feather, is running an ad saying the president has shown leadership in challenging times.
The organization is pumping at least $12 million into ads in October and is slated to go on the air in Florida, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio and Pennsylvania in the waning days of the campaign.
And, the November Fund, Republican insiders partly funded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, also is running ads in a handful of states assailing trial lawyers, an implicit attack against Kerry running mate and former trial lawyer John Edwards (search).
Liberal outside groups have aided Kerry all year and continue to be involved.
On the Democratic side, the Media Fund, a group created by former Clinton aide Harold Ickes, is running moderate levels of ads this week in Ohio and Wisconsin. The commercials assail Bush's economic policies in two states still struggling to bounce back from the recession.
And, an affiliate of MoveOn.org, a group funded in part by liberal billionaire philanthropist George Soros, is running a spot featuring the mother of a solider slain in Iraq in Iowa, New Mexico, Nevada and Pennsylvania. The United Auto Workers' political action committee entered the fray this week with anti-Bush TV and radio ads in eight states.