NEW YORK – President Bush vows to "spread ownership and opportunity," "make our economy more job friendly" and help lower health care costs in a fresh wave of campaign ads meant to lay out a sweeping second-term agenda as he emerges from the Republican convention.
With his own new ads, Democrat John Kerry (search) challenges Bush's contention of an improving economy and seeks to shift the race away from questions about the Massachusetts senator's decorated the post-Labor Day commercials from either candidate mentions terrorism, Iraq or national security, issues that have dominated the White House race throughout spring and summer. It's an indication that the campaign at the start of the fall homestretch will focus on domestic issues.
"We have come through a lot together. During the next four years, we'll spread ownership and opportunity," Bush says in one of his three new ads. "We gotta make sure our workers have the skills necessary to fill the jobs of the 21st Century."
The two others list the priorities of "Bush and our leaders in Congress," including "invest in education," "reduce dependence on foreign energy," "freer, fairer trade," and "strengthen Social Security."
Kerry attempts to make a case for change, not an easy task for a presidential challenger in a time of war, saying in one spot: "The fundamental choice in this election is between a president who will fight for the middle class and a president who sides with the special interests in this country." In another, Kerry claims: "President Bush insists the economy is just fine. We know America can do better."
Bush and the Republican National Committee (search), in the party's first large advertising purchase of the election, together reserved roughly $7 million worth of airtime to fill airwaves over the next week in 17 battleground states where Bush ran commercials last month. Ads begin airing Tuesday.
However, unlike in previous weeks, commercials won't run in Republican-leaning Arkansas. Aides believe support for the president is strong there. The campaign also stopped running ads in the only media market in Delaware, but commercials from the Philadelphia media market hit 80 percent of the state. Bush's campaign also is spending about $4 million over the next two months to run ads on national cable networks.
As part of a $50 million two-month ad blitz, Kerry's campaign will go on the air in Ohio on Friday, before expanding its ads to Florida, Iowa, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Wisconsin next week. Ads in 13 other states will come later in the fall. The buy also includes cable and minority-targeted stations.
Seeking to put a dent in any momentum Bush may get coming out of his convention, Kerry's campaign also plans to go on the air with six new state-specific ads in the first media markets Bush plans to visit after leaving New York. The ads, aides say, will highlight "promises" Bush has made and "failed to keep."
Kerry's campaign announced its ad plans earlier this week, tipping its hand to Bush's campaign — as well as to the Democrat's allies who have been running ads on his behalf. Outside groups, including an arm of the Democratic National Committee, can't legally coordinate with Kerry but they now know where he intends to focus his efforts this fall.
Steve Schmidt, a Bush campaign spokesman, called Kerry's claims "typical" for the Democrat because they were "filled with baseless attacks and hypocrisy."
"John Kerry's recipe of higher taxes, more regulations and more lawsuits would not create jobs for a single family in Ohio," Schmidt said. "The president has a forward-looking agenda of growing jobs and the economy."
Bush and Kerry each have roughly $90 million to spend until Election Day. Each received $75 million in federal funds for the fall campaign upon accepting their party nominations. Each candidate has another $15 million or so to spend in coordination with their national party committees.