WASHINGTON – Howard Dean (search) takes a subtle slap at his Democratic rivals in a new ad airing in New Hampshire, arguing that he spoke out against the Iraq war (search) and President Bush's economic plan while "other Democrats" were silent.
"Saying the politically popular thing is easy, but is that really what America needs now?" an announcer says in the ad.
The Dean ad contrasts with of his rivals with his new softer approach.
Overall, ads running in New Hampshire (search) in the final days before Tuesday's primary focus on President Bush and have a more positive tone, a change from the negative commercials that Dean and Dick Gephardt ran in Iowa in which they assailed each other by name with photographs.
The two paid a price for their hard-hitting ads, placing third and fourth in the caucuses after leading in polls there for weeks. Dean now is struggling to right his campaign as John Kerry has vaulted into the lead in polls. Gephardt abandoned his presidential bid. Kerry and John Edwards, who ran positive ads, finished a surprising one-two in Iowa.
"There's no question. The Dean-Gephardt shoving match cost those guys first and second place. They all learned that lesson," said Donna Brazile, a Democratic consultant who ran Al Gore's 2000 campaign.
Dean's ad mirrors his attempt on the stump in recent days to change his style. Unlike most of his previous ads in which he was alone, Dean is shown being sworn in as Vermont governor, shaking hands with former President Carter, sitting with older Americans and laughing on the campaign trail. It also shows a newspaper clip of when he signed the law that allowed civil unions for gay couples.
"Standing up for what's right, even when it's not popular. That's the test of a true leader," an announcer says. "When George Bush was riding high in the polls, and other Democrats were silent, Howard Dean spoke out to oppose the war and Bush's economic policies."
He doesn't name his rivals or use their photographs, as he has done in previous ads, but his reference to "other Democrats" is a reference to his opponents who voted to authorize the Iraq war and who want to keep some of Bush's tax cuts.
In contrast, Clark's most recent spot relies on written words and black-and-white photographs of the candidate with young mothers and their babies, and with school children in a classroom.
Set to instrumental music, the ad includes several written phrases, such as "Wes Clark's Plan," "Guarantee every American child health care coverage," and "Tax Reform Plan that puts $1,500 back in the pockets of a typical family."
Kerry's latest New Hampshire ad spotlights five state residents saying they support him because of his health care plan and experience. Kerry is shown on the campaign trail, talking to a town-hall gathering, being interviewed by news reporters and pumping his fist in the air in front of a fire truck. "He's a man of his word," Paul Dickey, a New Hampshire voter, says.
In one of Edwards' ads, high-tempo music plays in the background as the North Carolina senator is shown running in a sweat suit in a suburban neighborhood and shaking hands in a business suit during a town-hall meeting.
"I was born 50 years ago to a family with little material wealth, but a belief that in America anything is possible," Edwards says. "When they say I can't change Washington, I say I'm not owned by anybody."
And, Joe Lieberman, the vice presidential nominee in 2000, is running a biographical ad that starts with a black-and-white clip of John F. Kennedy proclaiming, "While this year it may be a Catholic, in other years it may someday be a Jew." Lieberman explains how his ancestors came to the United States for "the American dream." He is shown at the 2000 Democratic convention alongside Gore and clasping hands with his wife, Hadassah.
Lieberman also has cut an endorsement ad that features fellow Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, which likely will run soon.