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Ad Wars Heat Up In Feb. 3 States

Beth Lester of the CBS News Political Unit in Washington reports on the battle of the campaign airwaves


The Democratic presidential candidates have turned their attention and wallets to the states of February 3. All the Democrats combined spent over $20 million on television advertising in Iowa and New Hampshire, while engaging in non-stop retail politics as well.

Retail politics is over for now. The campaign is about momentum and TV. The states of Feb. 3 require television advertising – and lots of it – to reach voters spread out in Arizona, Delaware, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.

The Kerry campaign, riding high on its dual wins, momentum-based fundraising and free media, has decided to run television ads in all seven of the Feb. 3 states. Until this week, Kerry spent nothing on TV in these states. Now the campaign will admit to spending at least $800,000, although most believe it will be a lot higher.

A large part of the Kerry ad strategy banks on his war record and an ad featuring Vietnam crewmate Del Sandusky is running in all the Feb. 3 states except South Carolina. In South Carolina, an ad called "Alston," featuring an African-American Vietnam crewmate, will run instead.

The remainder of Kerry's ad plan is more eclectic. In Arizona and New Mexico, the Kerry team is airing an ad where Kerry speaks Spanish as part of an at-least $150,000 buy. In Oklahoma, "Corruption" which talks about fighting special interests, will be on the air. Next door in Missouri, the Kerry team plans to air "Del." Starting Saturday, an ad touting the endorsements of Rep. Jim Clyburn and former Sen. Ernest Hollings will begin running in South Carolina.

While Kerry is new to paid TV ads in the Feb. 3 states, the other candidates have been on air for months.

Wesley Clark spent $2.7 million in the Feb. 3 states before New Hampshire voted and is now on the air in Arizona, South Carolina, Oklahoma, New Mexico and North Dakota to the tune of about $900,000. The Clark team is running two ads, "Believe" and "Future", which tout Clark's "Washington outsider" status and his middle class tax plan respectively in all five of the states. Arizona is a major focus, with at least $203,000 worth of ads in rotation now on top of the $1.4 million Clark has already spent.

In South Carolina, Clark spokesman Bill Buck tells CBS New that the team will spend $400,000 to run those two ads as well. In New Mexico and Arizona, a Spanish version of the two ads, featuring the general speaking in Spanish, is also running on Spanish-language stations. Perhaps recognizing Kerry's apparent strength in the Show Me state, Clark has not advertised in Missouri and has no plans to do so this weekend.

Sen. Edwards, who had previously spent about $950,000 to run ads in South Carolina and Oklahoma, will continue to advertise in both states. In SC, "Believe" and "American Jobs" will comprise a $250,000 buy and in Oklahoma "Two Americas" and "American Jobs" will run for slightly less. "American Jobs" is the newest ad, touting Edwards' SC/OK-friendly claim that "no one will do more than I will to keep American jobs right here in America."

Hoping to spread Edwards' appeal and compete against Kerry, Edwards' team is now also spending $120,000 to air "Two Americas" and "Better Life" in the suddenly up for grabs Missouri. Voters in New Mexico will also begin to see those two ads, although with a smaller buy. The Edwards campaign tells CBS News that the Senator will not habla espaňol (speak Spanish) in any of his upcoming ads.

Rounding out the Feb. 3 ad blitz is Joe Lieberman. Although his campaign spent $1.5 million to advertise in South Carolina, Arizona and Oklahoma prior to the New Hampshire results, his post-Granite state ad buys in all three states will now only total $31,000. No Spanish for Lieberman, but he is featuring a Navajo-language ad in Arizona. Also in Arizona, a brand new ad entitled "President" urges voters to "Ignore the pundits. Choose a President." Lieberman is also running one television ad and one radio spot in Delaware but the size of the buy is unknown.

Where in this advertising blitz is Howard Dean?

Following the New Hampshire vote and a significant drop in its campaign coffers, the Dean campaign pulled all of its ads in the February 3 states. Prior to that decision, the Dean team had spent $3.2 million these states ($1.15 million in Arizona, $640,000 in South Carolina, $500,000 in New Mexico and $120,000 in Oklahoma). The Dean team apparently has only about $5 million on hand and has decided to concentrate its efforts – and its ad dollars – on states that vote on February 7 and beyond, especially Michigan and Wisconsin.

With news interest in the race rising, the Kerry campaign has zoomed ahead in the Feb. 3 polls based on its early victories. Instead of advertising before New Hampshire, a Kerry advisor told CBS News that the Kerry campaign is now getting "for free what the other campaigns have had to pay for." Now that Kerry is spending on television as well, the playing field may be tilted even more toward Boston.

By Beth Lester

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