In a temporary break from a barrage of commercials slamming Sen. John F. Kerry, President Bush's campaign is rolling out a television and Internet ad campaign today that includes the first lady stressing the importance of education.
Laura Bush appears only in the online version of the ad, touting a 30-second spot that says: "As president, he signed the most significant education reforms in 35 years. Because accountability and high standards are the keys to quality schools, the president's reforms give parents the tools needed to measure a child's progress. Today public schools require raised standards, well-qualified teachers, accountability to parents. . . . Because no child in America should be left behind."
Stephanie Cutter, spokeswoman for Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said the White House strategy of negative ads "has failed and they now have to start from scratch to make a positive case for the president's reelection. . . . The question now is why would they highlight a bill that they have completely walked away from by not funding and undermining its reforms."
Kerry and other Democrats say Bush has fallen $9.4 billion short of providing full funding in 2005 for his signature education initiative, the No Child Left Behind law. It is designed to bring all students up to proficiency in reading and math.
Bush campaign spokesman Terry Holt said education spending overall has risen 49 percent since Bush took office. Holt said that the ad was aimed at women and that the campaign plans to unveil a "W Is for Women" coalition, headed by former White House counselor Karen Hughes.
In the Internet video, Laura Bush says: "I've seen the president reading with children, encouraging them as they go through their lessons, talking to them about the importance of going to college."
The 30-second TV spot will air on cable networks and local stations in 18 battleground states. The campaign also is buying space for a 21/2-minute version on 50 popular Web sites -- from Yahoo! to those run by women's magazines such as Ladies Home Journal, as well as parents.com and babyzone.com. The video will be placed on the Web sites of 18 swing-state newspapers, including the Miami Herald, Cleveland Plain Dealer and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Tobe Berkovitz, associate dean of Boston University's communications school, called the new ad a "very smart" move.
"Laura Bush is the best surrogate the president has," Berkovitz said. "His foreign policy and defense people are poison at the moment to the American public."