Democratic Party set to launch TV ads

$6 million campaign kicks in as Kerry comes under spending limits

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

BOSTON - The Democratic Party is preparing to spend at least $6 million on television commercials starting this weekend, sources said, a critical boost to presidential nominee John Kerry as he suspends his own TV advertising next month to hoard cash for the fall.

The advertisements, targeting more than a dozen competitive states, will be the Democratic National Committee's first foray into a fierce general election battle zone.

They will also help magnify the publicity Kerry generates from his speech tonight accepting his party's presidential nomination.

"The standard strategy is to capitalize on newsworthy events," said Shanto Iyengar, a Stanford University political scientist who studies campaign ads. "It's called riding the wave. I wouldn't have expected anything else."

Kerry, he said, "needs to remain as visible as possible."

Democratic and Republican sources familiar with the ad buy confirmed it yesterday on condition of anonymity.

One source said the buy appeared to skip Arkansas and Louisiana and reduce air time in Virginia and North Carolina. Delaware, however, apparently was added to the list of more than a dozen targeted states, including Ohio and Florida.

So far, parties, candidates and others have spent more than $205 million on presidential TV ads, according to the TNSMI/Campaign Media Analysis Group. That exceeds the $198 million the ad monitor tracked during the entire 2000 campaign.

The new ads are coming at a crucial moment for Kerry. As he accepts the nomination, he will be given $75 million in public financing for the rest of his campaign. He will be legally prohibited from raising or spending additional private funds.

President Bush, on the other hand, is free to raise and spend as much private money as he wants until he is re-nominated during the Republican National Convention, which opens Aug. 30 in New York.

Then he will be eligible for the same $75 million Kerry is now accepting, with the same restrictions. Bush is expected to accept the public money.

In essence, the law and the calendar combine to give Bush a five-week edge over Kerry in TV ad spending.

To help Kerry during August, a unit of the Democratic National Committee will begin its TV ads as early as Saturday. This "independent expenditure" group of the DNC, which has a small staff and an office removed from party headquarters, is barred from coordinating with Kerry and other independent forces opposing Bush.

Ellen Moran, who directs the DNC operation, declined to comment yesterday on the independent-expenditure plans. Another DNC official, however, confirmed that spending was under way.

Another anti-Bush group also plans to pitch in with ads during August. The Media Fund, run by veteran Democratic operatives, has not yet disclosed where and when it will go on the air. The fund also is legally barred from sharing strategy with Kerry and the DNC.

What the new DNC ads will say remains unclear.

Despite stinging criticism of the Bush administration at the convention, Kerry and other Democrats have sought to show that the party is running a more positive campaign than Bush.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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