Video: Firing back

updated 8/19/2004 4:10:56 PM ET 2004-08-19T20:10:56

A veteran who served with John Kerry in Vietnam says the Democrat “risked his life to save mine” in a television ad that Kerry’s presidential campaign rolled out Thursday to counter a spot that claims Kerry lied about his war record.

“All these Viet Cong were shooting at me,” says Jim Rassmann, who was thrown off of the swift boat Kerry was manning. “I expected I’d be shot. When he pulled me out of the river, he risked his life to save mine.”

The 30-second ad argues that the Navy documented Kerry’s “heroism and awarded him the Bronze Star.”

It also accuses Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which ran commercials in West Virginia, Ohio and Wisconsin, of being funded by President Bush’s “big money supporters.” The group is funded in part by Houston homebuilder Bob J. Perry, a GOP donor.

The campaign is spending a small amount, about $180,000, to run the ad in Ohio and Wisconsin. Aides said it also would run in West Virginia, although as of Thursday afternoon no airtime had been bought.

By running ads this month, Kerry is deviating from his decision to forgo advertising until September to save money. Spending any now is a risk for Kerry, who must make his $75 million general election government check stretch five weeks longer than Bush, whose spending isn’t limited until he accepts his party nomination.

However, letting the attacks go unanswered in West Virginia, Ohio and Wisconsin could be even more costly for Kerry. The states are three of the most competitive and are home to socially conservative Democrats.

An affiliate of liberal interest group, which is funded in part by wealthy Democrats, hit back with its own ads criticizing the veterans’ claims in the three states. However, with his own ads, Kerry can precisely control the message.

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