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Seeking to Gain Momentum, Edwards Plans Television Ads

August 07, 2003|Nick Anderson | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards, who has excelled in fund-raising this year but lagged in public opinion polls, unveiled his first television advertisements Wednesday in an early drive to gain momentum in battleground states.

The North Carolina senator's move to television commercials, five months before Democratic voters begin choosing delegates, signals that the battle for the party's nomination in 2004 is intensifying.

Edwards' media consultant, David Axelrod, said the campaign would begin running three ads this week in Iowa and New Hampshire. He estimated the cost for this week at about $150,000.

Most of the other eight candidates have so far avoided such an expense, although former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has run television ads in Iowa. The Iowa caucuses -- the candidates' first test -- are set for Jan. 19, followed by the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 27.

Edwards' ads are mainly biographical, making points about the blue-collar family background of the 50-year-old North Carolinian, who became wealthy as a trial lawyer and won a Senate seat in 1998. The ads take no swings at his Democratic rivals but, in one case, jabs at President Bush, according to scripts distributed by the campaign.

In one 30-second spot promoting his plan to increase college tuition aid, Edwards says: "My grandmother started out as a sharecropper. My father worked in a mill all his life, had a high school education. I was the first person in my family to go to college. That's the America I believe in."

In a 60-second commercial, Edwards attacks the Republican White House incumbent: "George Bush, he comes from a very different place. He believes if we take care of folks at the top, that somehow the whole country will be lifted."

To purchase the advertising, Edwards began to use money he had gathered in the first half of the year. He finished second overall among the Democrats in cash on hand as of June 30, with $8.1 million in the bank. Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts was first with $10.9 million. Dean was third with $6.4 million.

Dean and Kerry are battling for supremacy in New Hampshire. They also are fighting hard in Iowa against Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri. Edwards is well behind in polls, drawing in single digits in both states.

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