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US Presidential Campaign Heats Up - 2004-05-04


The U.S. presidential election campaign intensified this week. President Bush formally launched his re-election bid with a bus tour of critical states in the Midwest, while his Democratic opponent, Senator John Kerry, began a television ad campaign aimed at voters who may not have a clear picture of who he is or what he stands for.

The Kerry campaign unveiled a $25 million ad blitz that is mostly biographical in nature, reminding voters of Senator Kerry's military service in Vietnam and his record of achievement in the Senate.

Several Democrats said they welcomed the Kerry ad campaign, noting that the presumed Democratic presidential nominee has made little headway against President Bush in several recent polls despite the difficult situation in Iraq.

For his part, the president's re-election campaign went on a bus tour of Michigan and Ohio, two states that figure to be critical election battlegrounds in November.

?My enthusiasm for the job is strong,? he said. ?I have a deep desire to serve the American people for four more years, but it is going to be a tough contest. I am fully aware of how tough it is going to be. I am running against an experienced United States Senator. He has been there a long time. He has been there so long he is just about on both sides of every issue.?

Some recent polls suggest the president's attempt to portray Senator Kerry as a 'flip-flopper', or someone who frequently changes positions on key issues, is bearing fruit.

Several-weeks ago, the Bush campaign launched a $60 million ad campaign that questioned Senator Kerry's record on defense and national security and recent polls indicate the public's view of the Massachusetts Senator has grown somewhat more negative as a result.

William Schneider is a political analyst at the American Enterprise Institute here in Washington.

?His [Bush's] ad campaign against Kerry has been very effective. He has managed to convince a lot of people in the swing states, the 18 swing states where the Bush campaign has run ads, that Kerry is a flip-flopper, that he is a tax-raiser.?

The Kerry campaign insists its new ads will help voters get a better sense of who John Kerry is, what his life experiences have been and, perhaps most importantly, what he stands for, but many experts believe that alone will not be enough to take on a strong incumbent in November.

Allan Lichtman is a presidential historian at the American University here in Washington.

?In so far as the Kerry campaign is concerned, they really do not seem at this point as yet to have developed a coherent strategy,? he said. ?I think if Kerry is going to win, it is going to be because events turn negatively towards the president or that he is able to convince the American people that when it comes to what counts here at home, he offers a better plan to assure prosperity and security for Americans.?

Despite concerns among some Democrats, most political analysts say it is still too early in the campaign to draw any major conclusions about how the public views the Bush-Kerry race. Opinion polls show the contest is a dead heat with about six months to go until Election Day.

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