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Presidential Campaigns Switch Ad Strategies

The presidential election is less than two months away, and both campaigns are running new commercials in battleground states. But as NPR's John McChesney reports, the campaigns seem to have traded strategies.

For months, ads for Sen. John Kerry took the high ground, avoiding direct attacks on President Bush. Negative ads about the president found their way to air through issue groups such as MoveOn.org. Now the Kerry campaign itself has begun an ad assault on the president, targeting his strategy in Iraq, the economy and health care.

The Bush campaign has also changed course. After months of ads critical of Kerry, the latest effort lays out the president's agenda for a second term.

Meanwhile, independent groups continue to produce new ads. Texans for Truth released a commercial in which a former officer in the Alabama Air National Guard says neither he nor his friends saw George W. Bush at a time when he was supposed to be serving with their unit in 1972.

The organization is following the strategy used by the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth, a group which targeted Kerry's record in Vietnam. They've made small buys in limited markets, anticipating lots of free media coverage.

And the group Mothers Opposing Bush, or as it calls itself, the MOB, has reached out to the entertainment industry, enlisting the help of actress Edie Falco from HBO's The Sopranos in their latest TV spot.

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