NEW YORK -- The chess game of television advertising buying has begun in earnest, with both major presidential candidates making significant purchases for air time right after the Republican convention.
The campaign of President Bush will begin a weeklong ad campaign to cost at least $7 million, starting the day after Labor Day on broadcast stations in about 20 battleground states, according to a Democratic operative who monitors all campaign-related purchases. The Bush-Cheney campaign is also launching a $1 million monthlong campaign on national cable channels, the operative said.
The campaign of challenger John F. Kerry announced this week it has budgeted $50 million for advertising during the 8 weeks until the Nov. 2 election. The advertising, some of it targeted to issues in specific states, will open today with a spot focusing on Ohio, a state that has been receiving extraordinary amounts of attention from both candidates, extend to six other states and ultimately to a total of 20 states that both campaigns consider to be competitive.
The Kerry campaign begins the stretch run at a financial disadvantage because the Democrats held their convention five weeks before the Republicans, meaning Kerry had to make the transition from privately raised funds to public money sooner. Both campaigns are operating with public funds for the stretch run, limiting spending to $74.7 million for each campaign after the date of the candidate's nomination.
The Kerry campaign spent several million dollars for its 600-person payroll, general overhead, and operational costs during August. But itcurtailed advertising during the month, spending only about $400,000 to respond to spots purchased by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a political group that has attacked Kerry's record in the Vietnam War.
The swift boat group is among an expanding number of organizations, technically independent of the campaigns and political parties but advocating on their behalf as ''527s," so called for the section of the federal tax code under which politically active nonprofit groups operate. Most are on the Democratic side, led by The Media Fund, which had spent $35.5 million on TV ads in support of Kerry through August, but was off the air during the convention.
The Kerry campaign has been assisted by the Democratic National Committee, which has spent about $25 million on television spots that were critical of Bush or supportive of Kerry during August. The DNC established a so-called ''independent expenditure" operation, which must operate separately from the Kerry campaign, to create and air ads backing the candidate. In recent weeks, the DNC operation has been spending about $7 million a week on pro-Kerry or anti-Bush ads.
The Kerry campaign has not yet announced how much of the $46 million surplus it had on hand when the Democrats' convention began will be turned over to the DNC, though it announced it would give $3 million each to the party's committees that help US House and Senate candidates.