Super Tuesday: Edwards' late surge boosts media buys

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North Carolina Sen. John Edwards' surprisingly strong showing in Wisconsin's Feb. 17 primary is rekindling hopes for Super Tuesday ad spending.

Mr. Edwards was running out of money for a major ad blitz and was expected to depend mostly on free media such as news appearances and interviews to carry him through March 2. But a quick increase in contributions following his showing in the dairy state, along with an upcoming federal matching money check raised the possibility that he might have sufficient funds for TV ads in smaller markets. The Edwards campaign said it saw a record amount of Internet contributions the day after the Wisconsin primary. Other contributions were also up.

"We will be able to communicate with the voters we need to communicate with in the battleground states," said Kim Rubey, a campaign spokeswoman.

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, expected before Wisconsin to hoard ad money for the coming battle with President Bush, now may have to use some of that in Super Tuesday states. But his camp was mum on the issue last week. "We have the ability to [advertise in] all of them. It doesn't mean that we will," said Stephanie Cutter, a Kerry spokeswoman.

On Super Tuesday, New York, California, Ohio, Maryland, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island all hold primaries while Minnesota holds a caucus.

Mr. Edwards last week sought to seize on Wisconsin for leverage. His campaign Web site featured a picture of him celebrating with a corner cutout saying, "Momentum: Support is growing across the nation." One link was labeled "Help defeat George Bush, join the campaign now" while another appealed for donations. On the trail he portrayed Wisconsin as creating a two-man race for the Democratic nomination.

On Feb. 22, Mr. Edwards launched ads in Georgia and Ohio, with one ad reflecting his "two Americas" stump speech. Each state will get a separate ad, one discussing his background and another citing jobs. None of the spots mention Mr. Kerry.

Mr. Kerry, noting his wins in 16 of 18 states, stayed focused primarily on attacking President Bush.

Behind those stances, Democratic consultants and media observers said, is a new campaign reality: Mr. Edwards needs to do more than start winning states; he needs to get 60% of the remaining delegates to win the nomination. Mr. Kerry, meanwhile, has leeway, but a major win March 2 would end the nomination battle.

"Not only does [Mr. Edwards] have to win, but he has to win by substantial majority," said Carter Eskew, who four years ago led Vice President Al Gore's ad team.

Political pundits warned that the one clear message from the election so far is that Democratic candidates better not take anything for granted."You don't want to slip," said Evan Tracey, chief operating officer of TNSMI Campaign Media Analysis Group. "You saw in the Dean campaign that no one has enough money to counterbalance what goes on in the news and really how the press is writing about them."

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