WASHINGTON – The presidential campaign advertising blitz cranks up Thursday with President Bush launching four ads in more than 17 states and a Democratic-leaning group hitting 17 states with two ads challenging Bush’s economic policies.

A day after Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., all but locked up the Democratic presidential nomination, Bush campaign officials unveiled the spots, which say that Bush’s decisive leadership has made America safer and stronger during turbulent political and economic times.

“I know exactly where I want to lead this country,” Bush says in the 60-second spot. “I’m optimistic about America because I believe in the people of America.”

The alternative ads by MoveOn.org paint a starker picture of America under Bush. The group’s main spot shows a man coming home from a factory, inspecting a pile of mounting bills and kissing his child goodnight.

“Two million jobs lost. Jobs going overseas,” a voiceover in the 30-second piece says. “And now no overtime pay. When it comes to choosing between corporate values and family values, face it, George Bush is not on our side.”

In addition to the 60-second ad, the Bush campaign will air three 30-second spots, including one in Spanish, on selected cable and broadcast channels in at least 17 states, campaign officials said.

“These spots will likely be seen by more Democrats and independents than Republicans in the combination of the buy we did,” said Matthew Dowd, the Bush campaign’s chief strategist.

MoveOn.org’s five-day, $1.84 million media buy is aimed at 67 markets in 17 battleground states that include Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

A previously aired MoveOn.org ad focusing on the federal deficit under Bush will air in Florida, Maine, Minnesota and Nevada.

“We saw that when the political season begins in earnest there would be a lot of messages out there pretty darn fast, so we decided to ramp up our campaign as soon as Super Tuesday was over,” said Wes Boyd, MoveOn.org’s president.

Bush campaign officials called their opening ad salvo the beginning of an eight-month “conversation” with the electorate.

“We obviously have to have a whole series of things (if) we’re going to correct” what’s been said over the last six months, Dowd said. “As you are aware, the Kerry campaign has run 15 or 16 negative ads in various markets around the country.”

(c) 2004, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-03-03-04 1810EST

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