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Ad War Rages On Despite Convention

Breaking with tradition, groups across the political spectrum keep up television spots.

August 31, 2004|Nick Anderson | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — The Republican National Convention is essentially a four-day commercial for President Bush's reelection, but an array of conservative, liberal and partisan groups also are vying for television viewers with a wave of advertisements in New York and elsewhere.

On Monday, the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay activist group, launched a 30-second spot on cable channels in New York and nationally to protest a party platform it considered intolerant toward gay and lesbian concerns. The ad uses footage of former President Reagan as it urges the party to choose an agenda of "hope, not fear."

The Democratic National Committee, meantime, was on air here with three 15-second spots that belittled Bush's record with the slogan "Mission Not Accomplished." begins a $3.2-million ad initiative in nine states today, featuring voters who say they have switched allegiance from Bush to his Democratic challenger, Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts.

Various other political organizations and interest groups also bought airtime for ads in recent days in such places as Des Moines; Green Bay, Wis.; and Charleston, W.Va.

The proliferation of commercials during a national political convention, when most public attention ordinarily is focused on one party and its nominees, is somewhat unusual.

But ad spending this year has broken all records -- surpassing $270 million through last week -- as parties and groups seek any possible edge in a seesaw contest. And with Labor Day around the corner, many are eager to start their final advertising push toward election day.

"It's sort of traditional etiquette not to campaign during the other party's convention," said Evan Tracey, chief operating officer of TNSMI/Campaign Media Analysis Group, which monitors ads for the Los Angeles Times. "But I don't think that's the case necessarily in this convention."

Except for an appearance in Nashville on Wednesday, Kerry is staying at a family home in Nantucket, Mass., this week, and the campaign is essentially off the air. Bush continues on the air in several states with an ad critical of Kerry's record on taxes. Several anti-Kerry groups are helping the president's cause.

The anti-tax Club for Growth this week is running ads in Arkansas and Minnesota. One new 30-second spot criticizes Kerry as supporting higher taxes on gasoline, Social Security benefits and income.

"Kerry says he'll only raise taxes on the rich," the ad says. "Trouble is, he thinks you're rich." The senator has pledged to raise taxes only on families that make more than $200,000 a year.

The conservative Progress for America Voter Fund began airing an ad in Des Moines on Monday that claimed Bush would be a stronger leader against terrorism than Kerry would. Over the weekend, a group called Americans for Job Security launched an ad in West Virginia that attacked Kerry for opposing legislation important to the coal industry.

On the other side, the Service Employees International Union began an ad Monday in Green Bay that criticized Bush's health policy and claimed Kerry would do more to lower prescription drug costs. The Democratic National Committee is accusing Bush of doing little to stem job losses in a 30-second ad that debuted Friday in Pennsylvania.

Today, MoveOn is beginning its new anti-Bush ads with a major purchase of airtime in states including Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. "We think the best way to counter all of the [convention] hype and spin is with the words of real people who were Bush believers who are now turning away," said Eli Pariser, executive director of MoveOn's political action committee.

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