Barack Obama is airing state-specific ads featuring praise from elected officials, an acknowledgment that in many parts of the country a leading Democratic presidential candidate still needs an introduction.
Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano and Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Kent Conrad of North Dakota are appearing in ads for Obama in their home states. The ads are part of a $3.5-million campaign this week in advance of Feb. 5's coast-to-coast nominating contests.
There is little doubt that Obama has gained name recognition during the buildup to the early primaries and caucuses. But his chief rival, former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, is better known, giving her an edge in many of the 22 states that will hold primaries and caucuses next week.
Heading into those contests, "the one big advantage she has is universal name recognition, and the one great barrier we have is that we're newer and we need to introduce ourselves and we need to do it in a compact and expeditious way," said one of Obama's senior advisors, David Axelrod.
But Obama is fresh off a resounding victory Saturday in South Carolina; earlier this month he won in Iowa. He also is prepared to spend money. The campaign reported Monday that it has raised $4 million online in two and a half days.
Napolitano, McCaskill and Conrad are pushing Obama's theme that he can win the presidency and govern by unifying disparate political groups.
By featuring those three politicians, the campaign seeks to show Obama's support from moderate Democrats serving in typically Republican states; George W. Bush carried each in 2000 and 2004.