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updated 12/13/2007 4:29:04 PM ET 2007-12-13T21:29:04
AD SPOTLIGHT

It was a lucrative week for TV and radio stations in the early primary states, as nearly all of the Democratic presidential candidates bought time for new ads before the final 2007 debate today in Des Moines -- and before voters tune out over the holidays. With the outcome of the first few primaries more uncertain than ever, campaigns scrambled to hone their messages, target the smallest of demographics and expand into less-saturated markets:

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Joseph Biden: It's been a few months since the voluble Delaware senator was last seen in TV ads in Iowa, but he returned on Wednesday with a new spot running across the Hawkeye State. The ad features Biden prompting voters to consult his foreign policy record for proof of his leadership and to visit his Web site detailing his plan for Iraq. While gently dismissing campaign rhetoric of "change" versus "experience," he seeks to portray himself as the grown-up in the race, above the recent attacks among the leading Democrats.

Hillary Rodham Clinton: After releasing a broadly focused TV ad over the weekend, the New York senator followed up this week with new radio ads in Iowa and South Carolina, each targeting key demographic groups that her campaign hopes will tip the balance in states where she's locked in an extremely close race with Barack Obama. In an effort to hold on to black women who might have been wooed by Oprah Winfrey's endorsement of Obama, the South Carolina spot features poet laureate and longtime Clinton supporter Maya Angelou arguing that her "girl" -- Clinton -- would support programs that matter to black voters.

Although Hispanics make up a relatively small segment of the population in Iowa and New Hampshire, Clinton showed she wasn't taking them for granted either with a new Spanish-language radio ad running in both states arguing that her policies on education, health care and the economy would be good for the Hispanic community. In conjunction with the new ad, the campaign released a Web video in Spanish and English that enlists former President Bill Clinton to make a similar case for his wife's candidacy. The ads are Clinton's first to directly target Hispanics, an effort the campaign says it will accelerate as the campaign continues.

Christopher Dodd: Barely registering in the most recent national and state polls, Dodd launched a late appeal to Iowa voters this week with a new TV spot, in which the Connecticut senator expresses a sentiment that perhaps all of the second-tier Democratic candidates share: "As you might have guessed, I'm not a former first lady or a celebrity." Dodd goes on to list some of his legislative accomplishments and cites his "lifetime of service" as evidence of his experience and electability, concluding, "I'm the candidate who can win next November, and I am ready to be president."

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Barack Obama: The Illinois senator became the first Democratic presidential candidate to go on the air in Nevada last week, releasing a TV spot that has already run in both Iowa and New Hampshire. The ad shows clips of the second-place Democratic candidate's announcement speech in Chicago, Ill., where Obama acknowledged his relative lack of experience in Washington but added, "I've been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change."

Nevada residents had hoped that by moving up their primary to Jan. 19, the same day as South Carolina's, they could lure the candidates out West during the early stages of the campaign. But as the New York Times reported last month, the Silver State has yet to be acknowledged as a crucial early primary state. Other than Obama, Republican Ron Paul is the only major candidate to have spent advertising dollars in Nevada thus far.

Bill Richardson: It's hard to break up the three-way stalemate that is the Democratic primary in Iowa while staying relentlessly positive. But Richardson is continuing that strategy with a TV spot that emphasizes his economic acumen. Recruiting supporter and one-time Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca to vouch for Richardson's record as New Mexico governor, the ad lauds his experience balancing budgets and creating jobs. The spot's focus on alternative energy and the economy could be appealing to voters, who are becoming more interested in economic issues than Iraq, recent polling suggests.

Copyright 2012 by National Journal Group Inc.

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