Kerry, Bush launch TV campaign ads

Senator highlights agenda

president's spot paints challenger as ultraliberal

April 22, 2004|By Nick Anderson | Nick Anderson,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON - Sen. John Kerry began a television counteroffensive against President Bush yesterday with two meet-the-candidate commercials in which he pledges to seek more international help in Iraq, keep America secure and focus on jobs and health care.

Bush is firing back today with a new advertisement on cable TV stations that calls Kerry more liberal than two of his famous Democratic Senate colleagues: Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

The dueling ads illustrate the intensifying effort to define Kerry for voters who have not yet formed strong impressions of him. They also come amid new polls showing Bush edging ahead in the presidential race.

The Bush campaign recently cut back on a huge ad barrage that depicted Kerry as soft on national defense, a flip-flopper on key issues and a tax-and-spend liberal. To counter such charges, Kerry's new ads spotlight his agenda.

In one, titled "Commitment," the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee gazes straight into the camera and says, "As president, I'll set a few clear national priorities for America. First, we will keep this country safe and secure. Second, I'll put an end to tax incentives that encourage American companies to ship jobs overseas. And third, we'll invest in education and health care."

The ad's no-frills style reflects one of the largest challenges facing Kerry. The Massachusetts senator must introduce himself to many voters and persuade them of the firmness of his convictions as he runs against a blunt-spoken president who Republicans tout as a steady and visionary leader.

Kerry's new 30-second spots are running in 17 states that both parties have targeted as the most closely contested.

Kerry aides refused to disclose the cost of the ad buy, but they said it was his largest so far in the campaign. Independent TV ad monitors estimate that would amount to at least a few million dollars per week.

In his other new TV ad, titled "Risk," Kerry responds to Bush's charge that he is unclear about what he would do in Iraq. Kerry voted in 2002 for the congressional resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq but has since accused Bush of botching pre-war diplomacy and failing to plan for a lengthy occupation.

Kerry voted last year against an $87 billion bill to fund military operations and reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan. Republicans say that vote shows Kerry lacks an adequate commitment to U.S. troops and is an example of a flip-flop.

"Let me tell you exactly what I would do to change the situation in Iraq," Kerry says in the ad. "I would immediately reach out to the international community in sharing the burden, the risk, because they also have a stake in the outcome of what is happening in Iraq."

Kerry also jabs at the administration over the mounting cost of the Iraqi invasion and occupation. "The American taxpayer is paying now almost $200 billion and who knows how many more billions," Kerry says, "and we're paying the highest price in the loss of lives of our young soldiers, almost alone."

The new Bush ad is titled "Doublespeak." It quotes editorials from three newspapers: The Wall Street Journal, which criticizes Kerry's tax policy; The Washington Post, which questions his position on Iraq; and The Union Leader of Manchester, N.H., which accuses him of waffling on education reform.

And, the ad says, "The nonpartisan National Journal magazine ranks Kerry the most liberal member of the Senate" - more than Clinton or Kennedy.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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