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Thanks in large part to Steve Forbes, Iowa media outlets are having their biggest caucus ad season ever. Mr. Forbes' rising poll numbers are fueling additional spending as rivals rush to attack.

The ad blitz, which could total more than $1 million, comes as candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, looking for voter support in the state's caucus Feb. 12, finally can compete at media weights similar to Mr. Forbes'.


Unlike Mr. Forbes, who's relying heavily on his own money, rivals have had to restrict their spending in the state to Federal Election Commission limits.

Iowa TV executives say the result has been that while Mr. Forbes and Sen. Bob Dole (R., Kan.) have spent similar amounts on advertising in January and February in Des Moines, Mr. Forbes spent much more before that.

"We love Steven Forbes," quipped Cheryl Semerad, director of sales and marketing for WHO-TV, the Des Moines NBC affiliate.

Ms. Semerad, who said her station generally gets about 40% of the spending in the market, revealed that Sen. Dole and Mr. Forbes have spent $65,540 and $61,000, respectively, at WHO in January and early February.

But Mr. Forbes' $181,910 overall spending at WHO was double Mr. Dole's $90,835. That would make Mr. Forbes' spending on Des Moines TV alone nearly $500,000, through the week before the caucus.

As of last week Sen. Dole and Mr. Forbes were spending at least a third more than their GOP competitors, Ms. Semerad said.


The ad market in this caucus is markedly different from 1992. That year, the favorite son candidacy of Sen. Tom Harkin in the Democratic caucus prompted most rivals to avoid Iowa and spend ad dollars in other states.

This time, station executives estimate candidates will spend more than $1 million in Iowa.

"It's very heavy," said Dave Porepp, sales manager of KCCI-TV, Des Moines' CBS affiliate.

Driving the increased spending are negative ads.


For instance, one ad last week from Sen. Dole and Stuart Stevens Group, Alexandria, Va., suggested Mr. Forbes' claim to be against government waste differed from the publisher's record overseeing Radio Free Europe when a top aide used $276,000 in government money to redecorate a home.

Campaign aides predicted the intensity of the attacks on Mr. Forbes will increase and the candidate might be due for a fall.

"He's getting too famous too fast with people knowing nothing about him," said Mark Merritt, communications director for former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander's campaign.

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