updated 4/21/2004 12:28:27 PM ET 2004-04-21T16:28:27

Democrat John Kerry outlines his plans for a “safe and secure” America and for the nation’s involvement in Iraq in two new campaign commercials meant to introduce the relatively unknown presidential candidate to voters.

“My priorities are jobs and health care. My commitment is to defend this country,” Kerry says in one ad. In the other, the presumptive nominee says he would “reach out to the international community in sharing the burden” in Iraq.

Airing in 17 battleground states starting Wednesday, the 30-second television ads are considered by Kerry’s campaign to be the first major launch of his general election ads, even though the candidate has been running modest levels of ads, mainly criticizing President Bush, since early March.

Meanwhile, Bush’s campaign planned to release a new commercial later Wednesday that contends “Kerry’s problem is not that people don’t know him. It’s that people do.”

Video: Kerry ad: 'Risk' The 60-second ad, to air on national cable networks, quotes several newspaper editorials that say Kerry engages in doublespeak and waffles on positions. And, the ad says: “The nonpartisan National Journal magazine ranks Kerry the most liberal member of the Senate — more liberal than Hillary Clinton or Ted Kennedy.”

Kerry’s campaign was boosting advertising spending significantly for the new commercials, advisers say. One, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Kerry’s spending is even with Bush’s current buy, which is about $4 million over 10 days.

The ads are the first in a series meant to flesh out Kerry’s proposals and biography. Future ads will more specifically lay out domestic and foreign policy plans, and a biographical spot is to follow in the coming weeks. Kerry is trying to define himself for voters before defining Bush. At the same time, Kerry also is using the ads to counter impressions created by Bush’s negative ads.

Unknown to many
Voters know little about the four-term Massachusetts senator and much of what they do know comes from Bush’s ads that portray the Democrat as a serial tax raiser, a flip-flopper on a range of issues, as well as a soft-on-terrorism lawmaker.

Video: ‘Doublespeak’ Bush continues to run negative ads while Kerry’s ads are positive. However, Kerry continues to criticize the president while on the campaign trail, and he has run more than a dozen attack ads against Bush since the fall, primarily in states that held early Democratic primary contests. Those states included four considered general election battlegrounds — Iowa, New Mexico, Missouri and New Hampshire.

“We have now begun our thrust,” said Tad Devine, a Kerry strategist. “What we believe is what voters want are answers not insults.”

Kerry is trying to define himself by detailing his plans to “build a stronger America,” as he says in one ad.

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“First, we will keep this country safe and secure. Second, I’ll put an end to tax incentives that encourage American companies to ship jobs overseas. And third, we’ll invest in education and health care,” Kerry says.

Iraq proposal
In the other spot, Kerry lays out his proposal “to change the situation in Iraq,” where 100 Americans have died in combat in April, the deadliest month since the U.S.-led invasion a year ago. The ad comes amid decisions by Spain and Honduras to withdraw their troops from Iraq, and as Bush’s campaign airs an ad accusing Kerry of waffling on military issues.

Video: Kerry ad: 'Commitment' “I would immediately reach out to the international community in sharing the burden, the risk, because they also have a stake in the outcome of what is happening in Iraq,” Kerry says in the ad. “The American taxpayer is paying now almost $200 billion and who knows how many more billions, and we’re paying the highest price in the loss of lives of our young soldiers, almost alone.”

The Democrat talks directly to the camera in both commercials. Neither ad mentions Bush, unlike Kerry’s previous general election commercials that mostly reacted to claims in the president’s ads.

The new ads are the first produced solely by the Washington firm, Shrum, Devine, Donilon, which had been sharing creative responsibilities with another firm headed by media consultant Jim Margolis until a contract dispute fractured the partnership.

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

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