WASHINGTON – Democrat Howard Dean (search) launched a $1 million television ad campaign in six early voting states Tuesday, promising to take his surging presidential bid nationwide while rivals focus on New Hampshire and Iowa.
"We intend to beat George Bush, but in order to do it we have to campaign in all 50 states," Dean said in a telephone interview. "This is the rollout."
In a show of political strength, the former Vermont governor will begin airing a new ad Friday in selected markets in Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Washington state and Wisconsin. No campaign has ventured to the nation's four corners with political spots.
The move forces Dean's eight Democratic rivals to reconsider their ad-buying strategies as they seek to keep pace with his fund-raising and organizational strengths.
Dean shook up the primary race this summer, collecting the most money in the fund-raising period that ended June 30 and displaying his grass-roots appeal with a four-day August campaign swing that drew thousands. Dean used the "Sleepless Summer" tour to raise $1 million on the Internet.
Polls show him leading in Iowa and New Hampshire, site of the first two presidential contests in 2004.
Even rival campaigns conceded Dean was wise to exploit his money and momentum, though they questioned whether the ads will have any long-term impact.
"This is primarily a fund-raising strategy. I think what he's trying to do -- and I give him credit for it, because it's working -- is build up the excitement and get more people signed on to his Web site," said Steve Elmendorf, an adviser to Rep. Dick Gephardt (search) of Missouri.
"But I find it hard to believe that an ad seen by a voter in Wisconsin is going to have an impact when he votes in February," Elmendorf said.
The ad criticizes Bush's policies on taxes and Iraq, as well as Democrats who backed the war.
"I opposed the war with Iraq when too many Democrats supported it because I want a foreign policy consistent with American values," Dean says. His rivals argue that Dean's anti-war position would make him a weak candidate against Bush.
"I created jobs as governor, balanced budgets, and made sure every child in my state has health insurance," Dean says in the ad.
Actually, Dean's administration ensured that health insurance was available to all children but about 4 percent of them do not have it.
Early advertising could backfire on Dean if he accepts taxpayer money and the spending limits that come with it. However, he recently backed away from his pledge to campaign within the public finance system, and aides say continued fund-raising successes will force Dean to consider following Bush's example and abandon the program.
"The Dean campaign's sole strategy is momentum and buzz," said Jim Jordan, campaign manager for Sen. John Kerry (search) of Massachusetts. "Given the confines of the state spending limits, spending $2 million on TV in the summer -- before most voters have checked in -- I think is a fairly extreme resource allocation decision."
Dean expects to raise $10.3 million in the quarter ending Sept. 30, said campaign manager Joe Trippi. That is the amount former President Clinton raised in the same period in 1995, the best performance by any Democratic presidential candidate in a single quarter the year before an election.
Privately, Dean's advisers said the $10.3 goal is a conservative estimate.
All six states hold elections following the first caucuses in Iowa Jan. 19 and the New Hampshire primary tentatively scheduled for Jan. 27. The average voter will see a Dean ad 10 times over the course of the campaign's 17-day run, aides said.
"This shows that he has staying power and he has good strategists," said Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, a Democrat who has not sided with any candidate. "But it's too early to call a winner or loser or even a decisive front-runner in this race."
John Edwards is the only other candidate airing ads in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. The North Carolina senator does not plan to expand beyond those three states in September.
Kerry may be forced to broaden his September ad ambitions in light of Dean's action. Aides said he is considering several options, including buying ads in as few as two states and as many as six.
Gephardt intends to air ads in Iowa and New Hampshire next month.
Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut has made no decisions and may not air ads in September, aides said.
Sen. Bob Graham of Florida has begun to film for his ads, but has not decided when to begin broadcasting them.
Dean was the first candidate to air television ads in Iowa and New Hampshire, surprising rivals with a June blitz and asking supporters to pay for it. The move helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for his campaign.