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AD WATCH| Evaluating the accuracy of political advertising

Bush Sees Better Times

Thursday, March 4, 2004; Page A06

Candidate: President Bush

Producer: Maverick Media

Images: Bush working at the White House; a waitress in a diner; construction and office workers; teacher and students; elderly woman; female soldier and her child; family in a minivan.

Time: 60 seconds

Audio: [President Bush:] One of the things that must never change is the entrepreneurial spirit of America. This country needs a president who clearly sees that.

[Laura Bush:] The strength, the focus, the characteristics that these times demand.

[President Bush:] And as the economy grows, the job base grows and somebody who's looking for work will be more likely to find a job.

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. I know what we need to do to make sure every person has a chance at realizing the American dream. I know what we need to do to continue economic growth so people can find work, to raise the standards at schools so children can learn, to fulfill the promise to America's seniors.

Americans are hard working, decent, generous people. I'm optimistic about America because I believe in the people of America.

Analysis: While the ad projects the president's concern for ordinary Americans in a struggling economy, it is striking in its lack of specifics. There is no mention of Bush's tax cuts, his No Child Left Behind law or his prescription-drug program, perhaps in tacit recognition that these are not viewed as having produced much progress.

Coupled with two other ads that stress the Sept. 11 attacks and the recession, the spots depict a president who has been steady in difficult times rather than a leader of great accomplishment.

The beautifully shot images of workers and families give the ad an uplifting feel despite the country's loss of 2.9 million jobs during Bush's tenure. The final shot utilizes the power of incumbency: a slow-motion shot of Bush walking past the White House pillars.

-- Howard Kurtz

© 2004 The Washington Post Company