- The Washington Times - Monday, February 23, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

President Bush’s re-election campaign, prepared to spend tens of millions of dollars on advertising this year, will start running TV commercials March 4, regardless of whether the race for the Democratic nomination is wrapped up.

The campaign had planned to start its television commercials only after Democrats settled on a nominee, but that has taken longer than some Bush advisers had expected because Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina continues to challenge Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

“We always said we would begin advertising and engage in other areas when we knew who our opponent was,” Bush-Cheney campaign manager Ken Mehlman said yesterday.

Campaign advisers believe Mr. Kerry, who has won 15 of 17 primaries and caucuses, will be the nominee after March 2, when 10 states hold contests.

The Bush-Cheney campaign expects to spend a large share of its $100 million re-election fund on ads during spring and summer, particularly in states that were close races in 2000.

Mr. Bush has been travelling the nation in campaign-style events for months, but his team has said they are not “campaigning” and Mr. Bush has said he is just “loosening up.”

Mr. Mehlman said the campaign’s media buyers will start calling stations today to check ad rates and will purchase airtime over the next two weeks in selected broadcast markets and nationally on cable networks.

He declined to discuss the initial cost of the ads or say which media markets would be chosen. He said the first phase of the ad campaign, starting March 4, will begin by focusing on the Republican incumbent’s leadership.

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