- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 31, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) — Previewing its fall strategy, Sen. John Kerry’s presidential campaign will buy $45 million worth of commercial time in 20 states through Election Day, including spots on cable television and advertising geared toward minorities.

The buy is timed to coincide with the conclusion of President Bush’s nominating convention as the Democrat seeks to curb the Republican incumbent’s momentum. The first spots will be broadcast in just 10 states, which were not disclosed by the campaign.

Stephanie Cutter, spokeswoman for the Kerry campaign, said yesterday that the purchasing strategy calls for the remaining 10 states to be added between now and Nov. 2. She said the ads will run on cable television as well as black and Hispanic media.

The Democratic presidential nominee is targeting the 20 oft-mentioned battleground states of Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

The campaign will make the ad buy today.

With the advanced buy, Mr. Kerry is signaling that he is giving up on Virginia.

His campaign went on the air in the Republican-leaning state in June and was never challenged by Mr. Bush on the air, even though Mr. Kerry spent about $2.5 million in the state over two months. It was part of the Democrats’ effort to expand the map of battleground states.

In 2000, Mr. Bush won Virginia by eight percentage points over Democrat Al Gore. The state has gone to Republicans in presidential elections for decades. At stake in Virginia are 13 electoral votes.

Upon accepting his party’s nomination last month, Mr. Kerry received $75 million in federal funds for the fall campaign. Mr. Bush gets the same amount later this week.

The $45 million ad buy is about half of what Mr. Kerry has to spend for the remainder of the campaign. Besides the taxpayers’ money, both major-party candidates control another $15 million or so in money spent by their respective parties.

Ms. Cutter said the campaign is holding back an undisclosed amount for ad buys later in the campaign.

It is unusual for campaigns to tip their hand so early, but the strategy may help Mr. Kerry save money and build a sense of momentum as Mr. Bush emerges from his nominating convention. The Kerry campaign already had announced an extensive travel schedule for the candidate and his top surrogates.

“There are advantages to it,” said Bill Carrick, who produces ads for Democrats from his California base. “It’s all about supply and demand. It’s going to cost less to buy time now than in a month or two.

“The disadvantage is the other side knows exactly what you’re doing months out,” he said.

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