Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, promoting his Vietnam War experience and his political career as “a lifetime of service and strength,” is launching a $25 million advertising campaign that includes forays into two Republican-leaning states.
One of two new 60-second ads, “Heart,” features two Vietnam veterans as well as wife Teresa Heinz Kerry and daughter Vanessa Kerry as it presents Kerry’s background as a county prosecutor and U.S. senator. The other ad, “Lifetime,” focuses on the Navy service in Vietnam that won Kerry three Purple Hearts and Silver and Bronze stars.
“If you look at my father’s time in service to this country, whether it’s as a veteran, prosecutor or senator, he has shown an ability to fight for things that matter,” Vanessa says in “Heart.” Teresa Heinz Kerry adds, “John is the face of someone who’s hopeful, who’s generous of spirit and of heart.”
Del Sandusky of Elgin, Ill., served under Kerry on a patrol boat in 1969 and appeared in a primary campaign ad for Kerry. In “Lifetime,” Sandusky repeats a line from the earlier ad: “The decisions that he made saved our lives.”
Kerry won the Bronze Star for saving the other veteran in the ads, Jim Rassmann of Oregon, during combat. “When he pulled me out of the river,” Rassmann says in the “Lifetime” spot, “he risked his life to save mine.”
The ad also says Kerry has supported victim’s rights and children’s health care, even breaking with own party to support a balanced budget. The ads carry the same tag line, “A Lifetime of Service and Strength.”
More money for ads
The Massachusetts senator is spending significantly more money to run ads in May than the $17 million he put into commercials in the two months since gaining a lock on the Democratic nomination.
Kerry has been airing moderate levels of ads on local broadcast channels in select media markets in 17 battleground states. But starting later this week, he will run the new 60-second ads in all media markets in those states, plus in Louisiana and Colorado and on national cable television networks.
President Bush won Louisiana and Colorado in 2000, but Kerry advisers believe the Democrat has a shot at grabbing the nine electoral votes available in each of the two states this year. Bush has not run ads on local stations in either state.
Kerry’s buy began Sunday and runs through May 27. It includes a four-day continuation of two 30-second spots that outline his priorities and plan for Iraq. The purchase is heavy enough that the TV industry estimates the average viewer in each media market will see one of the ads 15 to 17 times.
His buy is the single-largest purchase of airtime yet this year by either presidential campaign. However, Bush spent almost double that in multiple buys in March, his first month on the air.
In all, Bush’s campaign has poured more than $60 million into TV and radio ads since early March when it first went on the air in 18 states and nationally on cable channels.
The president started out with ads that highlighted his record, but then quickly launched spots that portrayed Kerry as a serial tax-raiser and weak on fighting terrorism. Bush now is in the midst of a $10 million run of commercials that portray Kerry as bad on national security and highlight his votes against weapons systems.
Some Democratic strategists worry that such attacks have diluted Kerry’s message and that the Republican labels have sunk in with voters. While Kerry’s new ads are meant to tell voters who he is and what he stands for, they also could help repair any damage that may have been caused and counter the GOP assertion that he is a flip-flopping liberal.
No mention of Bush
Although Kerry has run more than a dozen ads assailing Bush or his policies since September, none of the Democrat’s new or current ads mention the president.
Kerry can afford to stay positive on the air and run ads that fill in gaps in his biography and platform, rather than use commercials that attack Bush because liberal interest groups, such as the Media Fund, MoveOn.org’s affiliates and the AFL-CIO, are filling that role. Combined, such groups have spent at least $30 million on anti-Bush ads.
Kerry is able to spend so much on ads now because the money has flowed in since he emerged from the primary season nearly broke. He has raised more than $105 million so far in his White House bid, including $80 million this year.
Bush still has a cash advantage, having raised more than $185 million since launching his re-election effort a year ago. However, he already has spent about one-third of what he has raised.