Kerry ads take fight to GOP turf

TV spots begin next week in Va., a state regarded as an easy win for Bush

May 29, 2004|By Nick Anderson | Nick Anderson,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON - Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry will push his television commercials deep into Virginia next week, in a risky bid to expand the electoral battlefield onto terrain President Bush won easily four years ago.

Democrats said Kerry's move, after advertising forays this month into Colorado and Louisiana, shows that the Massachusetts senator can pierce Bush's aura of invincibility in parts of the South and the West.

Yesterday, Kerry also launched his first Spanish-language commercial since he became the presumptive Democratic nominee. The ad will run for about two weeks in Florida, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Ohio in markets with large Latino populations.

Republicans privately conceded that Colorado, which Bush carried in 2000 after both parties largely ignored it, is competitive. But they insisted that Kerry was wasting his money in the South, except for the tossup state of Florida and possibly Arkansas.

Bush and Kerry have competed on TV in about 18 other states since March.

Kerry's launch into Virginia - a state no Democrat has won since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 - is part of a nearly $18 million purchase for the month of June in targeted states and on national cable channels. Some of the cable ads will target black voters for the first time in the general election campaign.

Kerry will devote $750,000 of that sum to broadcast ads in Richmond, Roanoke and Norfolk and on Washington, D.C.-area cable channels that reach Northern Virginia, according to a Democratic source.

Aside from his foray into the South, Kerry is opening his appeal to Latino voters - an important swing constituency.

"John Kerry knows that the monument in Washington to the Second World War also honors soldiers with names like Garcia, Chavez and Ortiz," the new ad says, according to a translation of the script provided by the campaign.

The ad, timed for release Memorial Day weekend, mentions the medals Kerry won as a Navy officer in the Vietnam War.

Repeating foreign policy themes he stated Thursday in Seattle, Kerry said the United States should build an alliance to share responsibility in Iraq, provide better support for veterans, revamp the military and become independent of Middle East oil.

Analysts questioned whether the Massachusetts senator's wager on Virginia represented a real play for its 13 electoral votes or a feint. Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton each failed twice to carry the state, despite their Southern roots. Bush took it by eight percentage points in 2000 without using TV ads.

In a sign of his confidence this year, the president stopped advertising May 17 in Louisiana and has no plans to match Kerry in Virginia.

"Bush is going to win in Virginia unless Kerry is scoring a landslide nationally," said Larry J. Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist. Most Democrats, he said, "would never spend money here except to play with the Bush people's minds."

Kenneth M. Goldstein, a University of Wisconsin political scientist, said he thinks the Boston Democrat was seeking to project an image as a candidate who could appeal to all regions.

Kerry advisers said they saw opportunities in Virginia - a state with growing suburbs, a large population of families with connections to the military, and a centrist Democratic governor, Mark Warner.

Bush campaign officials say most Southerners will shun a Massachusetts senator with a record of supporting higher taxes, cuts in defense and liberal causes.

Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt called Kerry's Southern strategy "fanciful."

As Kerry probes GOP bastions, Republicans say the president should venture into more Democratic turf. One suggested target is New Jersey, where Bush has risen in polls.

Southern New Jersey sees Bush ads broadcast from the Philadelphia market.

Times staff writer Maria L. La Ganga contributed to this report from Green Bay, Wis. The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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