WASHINGTON – Howard Dean (search) singles out his rivals for backing President Bush's push for war against Iraq, dismissing them as "Washington Democrats." Dick Gephardt (search) touts his opposition to trade pacts, a stand at odds with some of his presidential foes.
The hard-hitting 30-second spots airing in Iowa (search) and New Hampshire (search) reflect the intensity and competitiveness of the primary race in the waning days before Monday's caucuses and the New Hampshire primary Jan. 27.
Dean's ad was indicative of the front-runner's new strategy to go on the offensive. It also was a return to an issue -- the Iraq war -- that transformed his campaign from long-shot former governor to first in national and state polls.
"Where did the Washington Democrats stand on the war?" an announcer says in Dean's ad. "Dick Gephardt wrote the resolution to authorize war. John Kerry and John Edwards both voted for the war. Then Dick Gephardt voted to spend another $87 billion on Iraq. Howard Dean has a different view." The former Vermont governor then says, "I opposed the war in Iraq and I'm against spending another $87 billion there."
Dean drew the ire of his opponents, who scolded him for "going negative" and complained that Dean's views on Iraq have not been as clear-cut as he claims.
"Last week Howard Dean, who said he's running on straight talk, promised a positive campaign," Kerry said in a statement. "The real opponent here is George W. Bush, but now Howard Dean is ending his Iowa campaign with the old style negative attack politics."
Dean has billed himself as the anti-war candidate throughout the campaign, but last month he conceded that he had backed an alternative congressional resolution sponsored by Sens. Joseph Biden, D-Del., and Richard Lugar, R-Ind., that would have authorized Bush to go to war once he determined diplomacy had been exhausted -- needing only to write a letter to that effect.
Dean said the measure, which never passed, might have avoided war.
Steve McMahon, Dean's media consultant, defended the ad, saying, "It's straight-forward and factual. It's not a negative ad."
Focusing on trade, Gephardt's ad says the Missouri congressman helped pass President Clinton's economic plan in 1993 that led to millions of new jobs and also led the opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement and the China trade deal. The ad then names Dean, John Kerry, Wesley Clark and Joe Lieberman as supporters of NAFTA. Gephardt says America must raise global standards.
Gephardt also is running a new ad in Iowa, quoting Martin Luther King Jr., the slain civil rights leader who will be memorialized on a federal holiday Monday.
Meanwhile, John Edwards is running a new ad in Iowa in which he promises to do "what's right for America" instead of talking about "what's wrong with every other candidate," a subtle jab at his opponents who have intensified criticism of one another on the stump -- and now on TV -- over the past few days.
The North Carolina senator will run more new ads on Wednesday that include clips of his endorsement from the Des Moines Register, the state's largest newspaper.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio began airing a new television ad in Iowa and New Hampshire that focused on his plan to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq and replace them with U.N. peacekeeping forces.
The new 30-second spot, airing in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, are running in tandem with a print ad in The Des Moines Register on Iraq and international trade.