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Clinton shifts to offense

The Democratic presidential hopeful has bought TV airtime for advertising in three upcoming primary states - Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin.
/ Source: National Journal

In the midst of some tough primary losses, Democratic presidential candidate 's campaign this week announced the resignation of campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle, deputy campaign manager Mike Henry and two leaders of her online operation. The shake-up comes at a particularly vulnerable time for the campaign, which has had difficulty competing in the money race and now faces an energized opponent who looks strong in the coming contests.

For her part, Clinton has brushed off worries about the staff changes, and her campaign insists there's still plenty of time to rack up delegates before the convention. To that end, she's bought TV airtime for advertising in three upcoming primary states. The pattern of the ad buys suggests that while Clinton's campaign is still focused on the March 4 votes in Ohio and Texas, to Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.

In her first TV ad directly attacking a fellow Democrat, Clinton's latest buy in Wisconsin takes aim at Obama for declining her invitations for more debates. "Maybe he'd prefer to give speeches than have to answer questions," the ad says, pointing to Clinton's policy proposals as proof that she's stronger on the issues. Although the candidates are scheduled to debate on Feb. 21 in Texas, no debates have been planned for the Badger State.

The Clinton camp's other spot airing in Wisconsin, "Obligation," focuses more explicitly on the New York senator's health care plan, underlining her longstanding commitment to expanding coverage. "She fought for universal health care long before it was popular," the ad begins. Quoting New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who has been highly critical of Obama's health care proposal, the ad suggests only Clinton can deliver universal care.

By pushing her plan, Clinton hopes to woo the Badger State's rural and manufacturing population at a time of economic anxiety. Clinton is also looking to tap into pocketbook worries in Ohio, where her campaign has dusted off a spot called "Falling Through," which first ran in South Carolina.

But it's Texas that appears to be the main focus of Clinton's newest ad buy. Despite the cost of advertising in the state's numerous and expensive media markets, Clinton bought airtime for "Obligation" there, as well as three other ads previously used in Super Tuesday states: "Lifetime," "Dignity," featuring Robert Kennedy Jr. and Cesar Chavez's grandson, and "Nuestra Amiga," a Spanish-language spot. The ads targeting Latino voters will be especially critical in Texas and may counter the sting felt by some Latinos after Solis Doyle's ouster.

"Senator Obama may have some advantages, but the amount of money the campaigns will spend on media will be roughly the same," said Clinton's media director Harold Wolfson in a conference call with reporters last week. "I do not anticipate he will have any significant advantage in the March 4 states." Indeed, with several of Clinton's biggest donors also promising to step in and run spots on her behalf, the ad war will likely stay far more competitive than Obama's impressive fundraising totals might suggest.

Have you seen my congressman?
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, gained media attention in January when he sued NBC for excluding him from a debate among the Democratic presidential candidates in Las Vegas. But Kucinich, who dropped out of the presidential race in late January, was involved this week in a very different debate -- against the four Democrats running to replace him as Ohio's 10th District representative.

Considered Kucinich's strongest Democratic rival, Cleveland City Councilman Joe Cimperman is going after the six-term congressman in his first TV ad of the cycle. The spot accuses Kucinich of ignoring his day job while he campaigned for the nation's highest office. "That's Congressman Dennis Kucinch," an announcer charges in the ad, "taking his full salary, but not doing his job." Cimperman appears on screen at the end, stating that "now is not the time for a part-time congressman."

The ad has raised eyebrows, however, over its claim that Kucinich missed over 300 votes. The Washington Post's Missed Vote Project shows that the congressman missed 139 votes during the last session. Asked to clarify, Cimperman's campaign manager, Khaled Salehi, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that "the ad counts up Kucinich's 10 years in the House," because "one term is just a 'snapshot' of history."

Cimperman also stirred controversy with a recent visit to Kucinich's congressional offices in Ohio, which he videotaped and posted on YouTube. Kucinich has asked federal authorities to investigate the incident, prompting a brutal response message from Cimperman.