"How does a man get to this point in his life?" the announcer asks in Vice President Bush's first television commercial, in which Bush is shown raising his hand to take the oath of office between flashes of career highlights. "How does one man come so far?"

The Bush presidential campaign launched a 17-day run of the 60-second spot last Thursday in South Dakota, a Feb. 23 primary state where the national Republican front-runner is playing catchup to Sen. Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.).

The commercial, arguing that "no one in this century is better prepared to be president," uses majestic-sounding music as the announcer enumerates Bush's career: being the youngest pilot in the Navy and recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross during World War II, a member of Congress, emissary to China and director of the CIA. The title "vice president" is never mentioned in the commercial -- but not, said Bush spokesman Peter Teeley, because it lacks sufficient majesty.

"If we didn't think it was a strength to be vice president of the United States, we wouldn't have had him standing there taking the oath of office," Teeley said. A 30-second Bush spot will begin running in South Dakota today.