President Bush launched a new ad yesterday saying the country is "rising to the challenge" of terrorism and economic difficulties even as Democrats unveiled plans to outspend him with a television blitz in five swing states.

With Democratic nominee John F. Kerry off the air for August to save money, the Media Fund, an independent group that includes his former campaign manager, is spending $2.5 million on ads in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada and New Mexico. Three of the ads were previously aired by PAC, deepening an alliance between the two liberal organizations.

What may garner even more attention, though, is the Media Fund's plans for an online video featuring comedian Will Ferrell, formerly of "Saturday Night Live," ridiculing Bush.

The Bush spot, airing in 18 tightly contested states, is the second straight to take a softer approach to the terrorism issue without criticizing Kerry -- and without offering specifics. It says Americans are "standing up against terrorism and working to grow our economy. What gives us optimism and hope? Freedom, faith, families and sacrifice."

Chief strategist Matthew Dowd said that while Bush plans to lay out his plans for a second term, "we'll let the president announce that to the public before we put it in a TV ad." He said future ads "will continue to draw contrasts with Senator Kerry because we think they're stark."

Dowd and campaign manager Ken Mehlman boasted that last week's Democratic convention gave Kerry no lift in the polls, after Dowd had set the expectations bar high by predicting a 15-point boost.

In an extra bit of gloating, Bush aides plan to put the video of Kerry's acceptance speech on their campaign Web site.

Dowd said Kerry and his liberal allies have outspent the Bush camp in advertising so far and would do so again in the fall. But he said the margin in the five states targeted by the Media Fund would not be 2 to 1 against Bush, as Jim Jordan, the group's director, told reporters. Jordan was including ads by the Democratic National Committee, which has said it will spend at least $50 million on the airwaves on Kerry's behalf.

The new ad among the five features a 5-year-old girl dragging a ball and chain labeled "$$$ Iraq." "George Bush is financing the war with huge deficits, and our children will be stuck with the bill," the narrator says. Other spots criticize job outsourcing and Halliburton Co., Vice President Cheney's former firm.

The video to be posted online by the Media Fund's parent organization was directed by Adam McKay, who also directed Ferrell's latest movie, "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy." Ferrell, who volunteered his services, portrays Bush as a pitchfork-wielding boob on a farm, struggling to make a campaign ad and finally saying: "Don't read the news or watch the news, except for Fox."