With a black advertising executive, a black former Cabinet member and a new ad in which John F. Kerry hugs a black man with an earring, the Massachusetts senator's presidential campaign stepped up its effort yesterday to reach African American voters.
Campaign officials called the $2 million ad buy aimed at black audiences and news outlets unprecedented this early in a White House campaign, and it follows what they called a record $1 million buy with a separate ad designed to appeal to Hispanics.
They also announced that Barack Obama, an African American favored to win a Senate seat in Illinois, will deliver the keynote address July 27 at the Democratic convention. The 42-year-old state senator and Harvard Law graduate, praised by Kerry as "an optimistic voice for America and a leader," is considered one of the party's hottest young stars and would be the third black U.S. senator in a century.
The campaign was setting the stage for Kerry's speech today to the NAACP as campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill accused President Bush of "choosing not to speak to some very important segments of the population." Bush declined an NAACP invitation.
In the 30-second TV ad, black people ask about Kerry: "Does he care about me?" and "What can he do for my community?" As Kerry is seen mingling with black voters, a narrator touts his effort "to bring back the 1.8 million jobs that have been lost under George W. Bush . . . to expand access to health care to nearly all Americans" and create "the John Kerry education trust fund."
Radio and print versions say that one in five African Americans lacks health insurance and that 316,000 more black Americans are unemployed now than when Bush took office. Kerry, who drew criticism earlier this year for not having enough blacks in top positions, generally does not single out the plight of minorities on the campaign trail.
"Our idea of a campaign is to talk about the same important issues to all groups," said Matthew Dowd, the Bush campaign's chief strategist. "Their campaign ad strategy follows the candidate's strategy, which is to come up with different things to say to different groups depending on who they're talking to."
The Bush camp has been airing Spanish-language ads since March, Dowd said, but plans no special spots for black voters. They are "a dominant Democratic group . . . less of a swing group than Latinos are to us," he said.
Kerry senior adviser Tad Devine, asked whether the Democrat is tailoring his message to different groups, said that earlier ads also focused on jobs and health care. But, he said, "this is absolutely targeted toward the African American community" and is Kerry's "introduction" to that community.
Alexis M. Herman, a former labor secretary who is advising Kerry, said the ad blitz would help "to mobilize and to turn out African Americans in historic proportions." Chuck Morrison, an African American executive at UniWorld Group, said he developed and tested the spots.
The ads will appear not just on cable networks and in battleground states but in markets in other states with sizable black populations, officials said. They said the spots will be placed around programs with high black viewership or around outlets such as Tom Joyner's radio show.
Kerry heads to the Boston convention having bought about as much television time as the president's team, contrary to expectations in the spring that he would be unlikely to match the Bush fundraising juggernaut.
According to reports in the Los Angeles Times and USA Today -- citing data from TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group -- Kerry's ads have been shown 72,908 times from March 3 to June 26 in 17 battleground states. That compares with 70,688 showings for the Bush-Cheney camp.
Equally important, independent liberal groups -- such as MoveOn.org and the Media Fund -- have aired their generally anti-Bush ads 56,627 times in the tightly contested states. Spots by conservative groups appeared 513 times.