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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 March, 2004, 02:43 GMT
Bush launches ad campaign
By Kevin Anderson
BBC News Online, Washington

George and Laura Bush
George and Laura Bush presented a positive, optimistic message
The primary battle is over in the race for the White House. Now the air war, or rather the war of the airwaves, begins.

For weeks, pundits had been wondering when President George W Bush would open his $100m war chest and loose the dogs of political war.

With John Kerry all but certain of the Democratic Party presidential nomination, President Bush is releasing the first TV ads of his re-election campaign.

However, his first multimillion dollar dip into the money pot will not be the electoral approximation of shock and awe but rather more about puppies, entrepreneurs and patriotism.

This does not mean that the Bush re-election will refrain from slinging some mud.

Both behind the scenes and in front of the cameras, Republicans are already vigorously attacking John Kerry.

'Steady leadership'

President Bush has been under pressure to begin his re-election campaign in earnest, as polls showed his approval ratings and credibility sagging.

His job ratings are off lows in late January, but the most recent Gallup poll of likely voters showed him 12 points behind Mr Kerry.

A weak State of the Union address, continued worries about the economy and mounting casualties and concerns in Iraq have eroded the president's standing.

But pundits have said the Democrats are enjoying what could be an artificial boost due to their spirited yet positive primary race.

In the primaries, Democrats concentrated most of their attacks not on one another but on President Bush.

Under the theme "steady leadership in times of change", Mr Bush does not respond directly to these attacks, but the ads seek to underscore his leadership and paint an optimistic view of the future.

Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry
Republicans stepped up their attacks on John Kerry
As was expected, scenes from the 11 September attacks play prominently.

One ad catalogues the challenges that President Bush has faced during his presidency including the dotcom bust and the terrorist attacks, with scenes of the rubble of the World Trade Center and the flag-draped coffins of firefighters.

"A test for all Americans. Today America is turning the corner," the announcer says.

Other ads show warm images of families and workers with themes like "Freedom, faith, families and sacrifice" and upbeat statements about the economy.

In another ad, a smiling, determined President Bush says: "I know exactly where I want to lead this country. I know what we need to do to make the world more free and more peaceful."

The campaign will spend $4.4m to air the ads, in English as well as one ad in Spanish.

They will be shown nationwide on certain cable networks and on local broadcast stations in 17 swing states, including Ohio, Florida and New Hampshire.

Sharp elbows

The ads are upbeat and positive with even First Lady Laura Bush singing her husband's praises.

He has "the strength, the focus, the characteristics that these times demand," she says.

Despite the positive message of these first ads, Republicans - including Vice President Dick Cheney - quickly moved to step up attacks on John Kerry as he locked up the nomination on Super Tuesday.

Mr Cheney has kept a lower profile in Washington as of late as some questioned whether he was a re-election liability for President Bush.

But on Super Tuesday, he gave a number of televised interviews critical of Senator Kerry and his national security record.

"He very clearly has over the years adopted a series of positions that indicate a desire to cut the defence budget, cut the intelligence budget, to eliminate many major weapons programs," Mr Cheney said.

And Republican congressional leader Dennis Hastert criticised John Kerry's budget plans.

Sounding familiar Republican lines of attack, he said: "We don't need more deficit spending, and we don't need a return to the tax and spend days of the old Democrats."

George Bush's re-election ads
George Bush launched the first ad campaign of his bid for re-election


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