updated 3/2/2004 1:49:20 PM ET 2004-03-02T18:49:20

A Democratic-leaning online group will run television commercials in 17 presidential battleground states starting Thursday to counter President Bush’s multimillion-dollar advertising blitz that will begin the same day.

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The MoveOn.org Voter Fund has been airing commercials assailing Bush for months in several swing states, but its $1.9 million effort will be its most far-reaching. The ads will ensure that there is a Democratic presence on the TV airwaves in key states as Bush begins to make his case for re-election.

John Kerry, the Democratic front-runner, is considering a modest response designed to put the White House on the defensive, advisers say, but the Democratic National Committee is waiting until there is a nominee before it starts running ads. That leaves outside groups like MoveOn, acting independently of the campaign, as the primary Democratic voice.

In most states, MoveOn will run a new ad that takes Bush to task for his economic policies, including overtime pay and outsourcing jobs. In others, the group will run a previously released spot that shows images of children toiling on a grocery line and in a tire factory coupled with the text, “Guess who’s going to pay off President Bush’s $1 trillion deficit?”

“We’re really stepping up our efforts to make sure our members’ voices are heard,” Wes Boyd, the group’s founder, said Tuesday. “We are trying to get these messages out about these fundamental issues.

5 days, 67 media markets
Ads will run over five days in 67 media markets in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Boyd said the buy may be extended after the group sees how the political landscape looks next week.

“We’re worried about being swamped with ads after Super Tuesday so we’re going to do our best,” he said.

Bush’s campaign plans to spend a large part of its $100 million war chest on ads and will begin running a positive ad about leadership on Thursday on broadcast stations in 17 swing states and nationally on cable networks targeting its GOP base.

MoveOn started running anti-Bush ads in September and says it has raised $10 million for its advertising fund. The group has broadcast some of the election season’s most critical TV commercials against the president, taking him to task for the Iraq war, the economy, job losses and prescription drug policies. The ads usually label the incumbent Republican a “misleader.”

The group’s most recent commercial showed a polygraph machine reacting as Bush was heard saying sentences such as “Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program.” It also hosted an ad contest for the best anti-Bush spot.

Two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs founded the group during the Clinton impeachment debate as an online petition urging Congress to censure him and move on to other business. It claims 2.3 million members nationwide.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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