WASHINGTON – John Kerry (search) will begin airing television ads Wednesday in all seven of the next states to hold contests, the first of the Democratic presidential candidates to buy commercials in delegate-rich and ultra-expensive Missouri.
The multistate advertising blitz (search) indicates that Kerry will compete for delegates in Arizona, South Carolina, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Delaware and North Dakota, which hold contests Feb. 3, and can afford to do so.
Three of Kerry's rivals -- Wesley Clark (search), John Edwards (search) and Joe Lieberman (search) -- are advertising only in states where they think they have the best chance to pick up the most delegates. And, Howard Dean (search) is in the dark in all of those states as his campaign tries to decide where to focus following New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary Tuesday.
Kerry, whose fund-raising struggles late last year led him to pump in nearly $7 million of his own money, had focused all of his advertising dollars on two states. He spent about $2.5 million in Iowa and at least $2 million in media markets that reach New Hampshire voters.
Kerry's surprise win in Iowa helped the campaign meet its goal of raising at least $1 million last week, a financial windfall that the campaign hopes it can continue after New Hampshire. It will cost at least that much for Kerry to run enough ads to resonate with voters in all seven states.
His advisers say that a win in New Hampshire combined with last-minute TV advertising will boost his momentum even more heading into next week's contests. Kerry will run commercials that include praise from two of his crewmates on the Navy gunboat he commanded in Vietnam.
Missouri, with its pledged 74 delegates, had been the only Feb. 3 state largely devoid of presidential campaign ads. The candidates did not bother to advertise in the high-priced media markets of St. Louis and Kansas City because they figured that favorite son Dick Gephardt would win the state. They are reconsidering now that the congressman is no longer in the race.
Kerry's rivals, meanwhile, have run ads for weeks in some of the Feb. 3 states.
Clark, who did not compete in Iowa, has been on the air steadily in five of them. His advisers say that in the final week of campaigning he is continuing to run heavy levels of ads in South Carolina while pumping in considerably more money than he had been in Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and North Dakota.
The retired Army general is slated to start running a new ad in those states Tuesday night that will say he comes from a humble background and claim he is the true outsider, compared to other Democrats in the field.
Meanwhile, Lieberman is running ads in four Feb. 3 states. And, Edwards is on the air in three after going up Tuesday in New Mexico for the first time.
Dean, a former Vermont governor, stopped running ads entirely in South Carolina, New Mexico and Arizona over the weekend to focus advertising dollars on New Hampshire, where advisers say he has spent between $800,000 and $850,000 in the stretch run, significantly more than his opponents.
Campaign advisers say scaling back advertising in those states does not indicate that Dean, who raised more than $40 million last year, is short on cash.