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Dean Is Targeted by Ad Campaign

Conservative group calls the Democrat's backers a 'Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show.'

January 07, 2004|Nick Anderson and Janet Hook | Times Staff Writers

DES MOINES — Howard Dean's economic policies -- as well as his "latte-drinking, sushi-eating" supporters -- will come under a round of withering fire starting today from a group that supports conservative Republican candidates.

The Club for Growth, an organization that is an advocate for tax cuts and other conservative causes, will begin airing in Iowa today a TV ad attacking the proposal by the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination to repeal all of the tax cuts enacted under President Bush.

The ad features a husband and wife and opens with an announcer asking, "What do you think about Howard Dean's proposal to raise your taxes by $1,900 a year?"

The husband replies, 'Well, I think Howard Dean should take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading ... "

The wife jumps in: "Body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont where it belongs."

Steve Moore, president of the Club for Growth, said of the ad: "What we're trying to show is Dean is supported by the cultural elite and not by anyone with middle-American values and finances."

Dean's campaign dismissed the ad as a fundraising ploy to stir up GOP activists. A spokesman for the campaign also asserted that there were far more sushi restaurants, Volvo dealerships and Starbucks outlets in northern Virginia, where Moore and many prominent Republicans live, than in all of Iowa.

Dean has said repeal of Bush's tax cuts is needed to help reduce the federal deficit and to fund programs that are more helpful to the middle class than the money provided by the cuts.

Moore said his group spent $75,000 airtime in Iowa for the ad. He did not say how much time that amounted to, but added, "It's not a token buy. This is going to run enough that people will see it over and over."

Meanwhile, a study found that despite Dean's significant fundraising advantage among Democrats, he was outspent on TV advertising by three of his party rivals as 2003 ended and the New Year began.

From Dec. 29 to Jan. 4, Dean spent about $480,000 for ads on broadcast channels in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Iowa. Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts spent $516,000 on TV advertising during the week; retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark, $612,000; and Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri, $662,000.

The figures do not include ads on cable television and in small broadcast markets.

The figures, compiled for The Times by the Campaign Media Analysis Group, suggest that in the closing stretch of the campaigns in early-voting states, Dean's top rivals for the nomination are in position to compete on television with the front-runner.

Their financial viability is something of a surprise, given the $40 million Dean raised in 2003, a one-year record for Democrats. Among the other major candidates, only Kerry collected more than $20 million.

Dean is buying more ads on prime time than his rivals, said Evan Tracey, chief operating officer for TNSMI/Campaign Media Analysis Group, based in Arlington, Va. That tactic is expensive, but reaches more viewers. "Prime time is just that -- prime real estate, prime rib," he said. "It's the best of the best."

Behind the spending is a pattern that reflects Dean's status as the candidate to beat in a nine-way contest. The former Vermont governor seeks to win in nominating contests from coast to coast, starting with the Jan. 19 Iowa caucuses, while his eight rivals are trying to derail him in one state or another.

From June 1 through Sunday, a period during which Dean clearly established his fundraising dominance among the Democrats, he spent nearly $5.7 million on television ads, far more than any of his rivals. Kerry, his closest competitor in spending, bought $3.6 million worth of ads.

Dean also has spent large sums on organizing in states across the country -- outside of New Hampshire, Iowa and the seven states voting Feb. 3. And he has spent heavily on rallies and other campaign events.

The Gephardt camp contends that Dean has run through much of his money and may soon find himself struggling to respond to fire from all sides.

On Sunday, during a driving snowstorm, the Dean campaign used three cranes to unfurl giant pro-Dean banners outside a public television station before a Democratic candidate debate in Johnston, Iowa. Most of the people who saw the signs were reporters and partisans coming in and out of the station.

Steve Murphy, Gephardt's campaign manager, said of such spending, "It costs a lot of money to put on a rock tour, and that's what [Dean] is doing."

During the week wrapped around New Year's Day, Gephardt's ads aired in Iowa; Oklahoma, which votes Feb. 3; and Michigan, which votes Feb. 7. Gephardt's Michigan buy was significant: more than $300,000 in Flint, Detroit and Grand Rapids. Dean ran no ads in major Michigan markets in that time.

Clark spent more than $250,000 during the week on ads in Arizona, which holds its primary Feb. 3.

Kerry, a Massachusetts senator, spent most of his advertising money in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Two other Democratic candidates, Sens. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and John Edwards of North Carolina, spent considerably less last week on broadcast ads. Lieberman spent $76,000 on ads for New Hampshire's major markets and Edwards $91,000 on ads for Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Lieberman advisor Mandy Grunwald said the estimate understated Lieberman's actual spending, in part because it did not include ads on cable stations.

*

Anderson reported from Des Moines, Hook from Washington. Times staff writer Matea Gold in Des Moines contributed to this report.

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