A conservative group launched its first television ad Thursday that shows President Bush shaking hands with firefighters amid the World Trade Center wreckage and poses the question, "Could John Kerry have shown this leadership?"

Progress for America Voter Fund (search) said it will spend $1 million over three weeks to run the commercial — and another to be unveiled after July 4 — in the swing states of Nevada and New Mexico.

The organization said the ads are the first step in a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign designed to counter the pro-Democratic groups that have spent more than $40 million on ads criticizing Bush.

The ad hails Bush's leadership in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Progress For America Voter Fund is the third conservative organization to run ads praising Bush and assailing Democratic presidential candidate Kerry. Club for Growth (search) has spent $1 million on ads, and Citizens United (search) also has spent thousands.

Jano Cabrera, a Democratic National Committee spokesman, said such attacks ring hollow. "Voters know that Kerry has a military record of sacrifice and service that no amount of Republican dirty ad money can blemish," Cabrera said.

Spending by such Republican-leaning groups is dwarfed by the $40 million liberal groups such as the Media Fund and MoveOn.org have spent.

"We plan, at a minimum, to match them," vowed Brian McCabe, president of Progress for America Voter Fund.

His group decided to act after federal regulators decided last month not to rein in spending in the presidential race by outside groups.