Tuesday, August 3, 2004

Bush-Cheney campaign officials have rolled out new ads to capitalize on what they think is a historic political opportunity.

Four polls since the conclusion of the Democratic National Convention showed that presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry was unable to take a lead over President Bush beyond the surveys’ margins of error.

The most Kerry-favorable poll, by ABC News and The Washington Post, showed the Massachusetts senator leading Mr. Bush 50 percent to 44 percent. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll put the president ahead of Mr. Kerry 51 percent to 45 percent.

It adds up to the smallest average “bounce” for a challenger for the White House since anti-Vietnam War Democratic candidate George McGovern left his convention with a three-percentage-point drop in the polls.

“The Democrats said they wanted to introduce John Kerry [at their convention],” Bush pollster Matthew Dowd said yesterday. “I think that’s a goal they met. But I don’t think the public is reacting well to the introduction.”

The Bush campaign wants to capitalize on this historic advantage by spending $14 million in positive television ads this week focusing on the president’s record of “moving America forward.”

“The last few years have tested America in many ways,” begins an ad, which features firefighters, children, workers, soldiers and images from the destroyed World Trade Center.

“But together, we’re rising to the challenge,” says the ad, which will run in 18 swing states and on national cable networks. “Standing up to terrorism and working to grow our economy.”

“What gives us optimism and hope? Freedom, faith, families and sacrifice,” it says.

Kerry campaign spokesman Chad Clanton said the ad was misleading.

“We’ve got sky-high health insurance costs, record-high deficits, record job losses, record-high gas prices and no plan to win the peace in Iraq. And the president thinks he’s ‘moving America forward?’ No wonder this White House has lost credibility,” Mr. Clanton said.

The ad introduced yesterday is one of two principal positive pieces designed for this more-upbeat campaign. The Bush-Cheney team Friday rolled out the other ad, which praises the president as having “a sense of purpose, a vision for the future, the conviction to do what’s right.”

The new Bush ads are seen as a counter to the tens of millions of dollars the Democratic National Committee and Kerry-supporting groups such as the Media Fund plan to spend before the Aug. 30-Sept. 2 Republican National Convention in New York City.

The Media Fund, which has spent $27 million this year on ads attacking Mr. Bush in swing states, is spending an additional $2.5 million this week on new spots.

The anti-Bush ads feature children who the Media Fund says will be cheated out of good medical care and education because the president’s “go it alone” strategy in Iraq is costing billions, as well as seniors who tell the camera that the thought of paying for medicine “is very scary.” It asserts that corporations with ties to the Bush administration are profiteering from the war.

Media Fund said one ad features a smiling, 5-year-old girl who walks toward the camera with “arms outstretched, as though she’s going to hug the camera person,” but is “jerked to a halt” by a ball and chain that reads “$$$ Iraq.”

“The little girl pulls at the chain, then looks up with fear and confusion in her eyes,” the Media Fund said. The ad ends with the word “misleader” on the screen.

Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman said he expects Mr. Kerry and his supporters to outspend Republicans this month, “but we think we have the resources necessary to communicate the president’s message” until the party’s convention.

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