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THE NATION | RACE TO THE WHITE HOUSE

New Kerry TV Advertisement Aims to Counter GOP Attacks

The ad, to air in 17 key states, focuses on the Democrat's biography to fight claims that he is a tax-raising liberal who is weak on defense.

March 23, 2004|Nick Anderson | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Seeking to counter Republican attacks, John F. Kerry will launch a television advertisement today depicting himself as a decorated Vietnam War veteran who plans to roll back tax cuts for the wealthy, expand access to healthcare and rejuvenate the economy.

Kerry's first biographical ad since he became the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee will air in 17 states -- including Ohio, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Florida and Arizona -- that both campaigns view as crucial to the general election's outcome. The commercial aims in part to introduce the Massachusetts senator to voters who did not follow the Democratic nominating contest.

The ad comes as President Bush and his GOP allies have intensified their assault on Kerry, criticizing him as a tax-raising liberal who is weak on defense. Kerry has denounced those attacks as misleading and is using the new ad in an attempt to frame his candidacy in his own terms.

"For 35 years, John Kerry has fought for his country," his ad announces as the screen flashes three images of him. In one, he is speaking with students. In another, he is in shirt and tie announcing his presidential candidacy last year in front of an aircraft carrier. And the central shot is of Kerry as a young Navy lieutenant toting a rifle in the jungles of Vietnam.

Kerry then says: "We need to get some things done in this country: affordable healthcare, rolling back tax cuts for the wealthy, really investing in our kids. That's why I'm running for president."

The ad touts Kerry's Vietnam-era resume, showing a still photograph of the young officer receiving a Silver Star for gallantry. "The military experience to defend America," a narrator says, an apparent reply to Bush campaign officials who contend that Kerry's Senate voting record shows he can't be trusted to guard the nation.

The ad's narrator adds that the Democrat has "a new plan to create jobs and put our economy back on track" -- an assertion made while footage shows Kerry talking to a worker in a hard hat.

The ad does not include any detailed examination of his healthcare initiative, estimated to cost about $900 billion over 10 years, or his proposal to rescind tax cuts for families who earn more than $200,000 a year.

Nor does the ad mention Bush by name, although it closes with a promise to launch "a new direction for America."

Bush campaign spokesman Terry Holt said Kerry's ad could not paper over holes in his record.

"John Kerry would have the American people ignore his 19-year voting record in the Senate," Holt said. "It's one thing to talk about healthcare, but John Kerry has never passed a single healthcare initiative."

Holt also said Kerry would have to explain how he would pay for his spending plans without increasing the budget deficit.

Bush's cash-rich campaign began its advertising campaign with 30- and 60-second spots. But Kerry, with only a fraction of the president's war chest, bought only half-minute ads.

Kerry became the presumed nominee in early March, when his last major Democratic rival bowed out. He is vacationing in Idaho but expects to return to the campaign trail Thursday.

Kerry's ad also will run in Maine, Michigan, Iowa, New Mexico, Oregon, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Nevada, West Virginia, Arkansas and Washington state, aides said. Bush is also airing ads in those states, many of which were decided by very close margins in 2000.

Through Saturday, Kerry had spent about $2 million this month on broadcast TV ads in major markets, according to data compiled for The Times by TNSMI/Campaign Media Analysis Group, based in Arlington, Va. That money paid for an ad Kerry used to rebut a Bush charge that the Democrat would raise taxes by "at least $900 billion."

Bush's camp has said Kerry would have to increase taxes that much to pay for his healthcare plan and other programs. But the challenger says the tax figure is a fabrication and that he will soon release his own budget.

Also aiding Kerry are Democratic-leaning interest groups, which spent an additional $8.6 million on ads critical of Bush through Saturday.

Bush spent $13.1 million on TV ads to start the month, the media analysis group said. That is less than 10% of the roughly $158 million Bush raised for his reelection through February.

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