Published January 14, 2015
With a "Kerry-Edwards" placard in her lap, three Democratic Party pins on her jacket and a Louisiana delegation sign swaying above her head, Cynthia Morrell is the picture of Democratic unity. But don't get her started about the campaign's decision to pull ads from her state.
"A state like mine can't just be tossed away," she says from her front-row floor seat at the Democratic Convention. "We have a good chance of winning if they take us seriously."
Kerry has eliminated or reduced his ad campaign in Louisiana, Arkansas, Virginia, Missouri and other states to defend his political turf with money that would otherwise pour into Ohio, Florida and other tossup states.
But that strategy is constantly adjusted as political winds shift. Headed into the convention, Kerry and his advisers decided to shift money from some states to meet new needs in others, starting with an infusion for North Carolina.
Adding the state's senior senator, John Edwards (search), to the ticket put North Carolina in play for November, but there was no ad budget. Kerry re-routed $1.4 million to North Carolina for pre-convention ads, according to several officials familiar with his ad purchasing. They spoke on condition of anonymity because such details are usually tightly guarded to limit Bush's knowledge of Democratic strategy.
In addition, Kerry's polling showed that Bush was closer than Democrats would like him to be in Michigan and New Hampshire. The Great Lakes state got a $200,000 bump in ad spending. New Hampshire's ad budget is up $100,000 for July.
On the other hand, Kerry's polling showed Republican-leaning Colorado to be in better shape for Democrats than expected. Hoping to build momentum, Kerry increased his spending by $200,000 in Colorado.
All that money had to come from somewhere.
He saved more than $1 million by pulling ads from Louisiana and Arkansas, officials said. Ads are still airing in Virginia, but spending is down about $700,000. Missouri, a traditional battleground, lost about $500,000 in Kerry ads.
Since that decision, Kerry's advisers say they've been pleasantly surprised by his rebound in Missouri polls and may restore the ad budget — an example of how battleground strategies shift from week to week.
Kerry also reduced ad spending in Maine, Oregon and Minnesota. But those decisions were based on confidence rather than concern — internal polls gave Kerry reason to believe he was doing well enough against Bush to risk moving money away.
"This is an ever-shifting strategy," said Kerry spokeswoman Debra DeShong. "We will be up on the air in some places sometimes and not up in some places sometimes."
Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia said he has no problem with Kerry's strategy.
"The fact is the campaign is still in Virginia. Ads are still running. Heck, they're running more ads than Al Gore or anybody did in 2000," the governor said. "We may not be in the top 15 or 16 states" on Kerry's target list, "but we're in that second tier."
Kerry has visited Virginia seven times as a candidate, Arkansas six, Louisiana and Missouri five. He's not likely to abandon that investment this early, delegates said.
"It surprises me, stuns me" that Kerry pulled his ads, said Richard Lee of Louisiana. Moments later, the state party's executive director, Derek Wooley, pulled Lee aside and explained Kerry's strategy.
"The groundwork has been laid in Louisiana," Wooley assured Lee on the convention floor. "He wanted to spend more money in places that needed to know more about Edwards. He has not given up on Louisiana. Kerry will win our state."
Lee nodded his head.
Ben Jeffers, chairman of the state party in 2000, recalled with a grimace that Gore pulled out of Louisiana for good in September of 2000. He doesn't expect that to happen again, but won't take anything for granted.
"They say that they're going to keep targeting us," Jeffers said of the Kerry campaign. "But, yes, I'm staying on their case."