Aggressive Ads Gave Kerry Advantage

WASHINGTON, D.C. Sen. John Kerry’s campaign gained a significant advantage by blanketing the airwaves in key states like Iowa, New Hampshire and Missouri with attack ads during the primary season, according to a study from the Wisconsin Advertising Project released Thursday.

Democratic candidates spent $32.5 million on television ads in 17 battleground states during the primaries, and half of those ads attacked President George W. Bush, the study said.

Kerry’s campaign, which has attacked Bush since the primary season started, has aired the most critical ads. All of Kerry’s general election ads through March 22 and 78 percent of his primary ads discussed Bush. None of Kerry’s primary ads mentioned his Democratic opponents.

Meanwhile, the Bush campaign released two 30-second ads on Thursday.

“Differences” attacks Kerry’s voting record on Social Security and tax credits. “Kerry even supported raising taxes on gasoline 50 cents a gallon,” Bush says. “Now John Kerry’s plan will raise taxes by at least $900 billion his first hundred days in office. And that’s just his first 100 days.”

In the second spot, “21 Century,” Bush talks about how his tax cuts will help the economy grow. “We’ve also got plans to help people get the skills necessary to fill the new jobs of the 21st century.”

While Bush has spent more than $15 million on mostly positive spots in the swing states so far, Kerry’s campaign has remained competitive by airing more than $11.5 million ads in those same states, the study said.

“Even though the Bush campaign is spending a lot of money, and outspending the Kerry campaign and allied groups in a lot of states, it still has a significant deficit to make up,” said Ken Goldstein, the project’s director. “The slate was not wiped clean once the Democratic nominee became apparent and the fact is that Kerry and the other Democratic candidates created a barrage of advertisements crticial to Bush, with powerful messages.”

The study noted that this year’s election is off to an early start compared to 2000, when the first round of general election ads did not begin until June. In 1996, however, former president Bill Clinton started airing ads 18 months before the general election.