Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean is doubling his ad spending in Iowa -- to at least $400,000 over 10 days -- in an attempt to pull away from rival Richard A. Gephardt in the key early voting state, campaign officials said Wednesday.
Gephardt's campaign accused Dean of trying to "buy the Iowa caucuses" with the new 60-second biographical ad slated to start airing Monday in the state.
Dean's action puts pressure on Gephardt because it is unclear whether the Missouri congressman can match or exceed the former Vermont governor's ad buy. Gephardt is slated to spend less than half that -- about $160,000 -- during the same period.
Dean can spend as much as he wants in the Jan. 19 caucus state because he is not accepting public financing. Gephardt is taking the government money, so he must abide by spending caps.
Polls indicate that Dean is in a tight race with Gephardt for the Iowa caucuses. He holds a wide lead in the follow-up primary in New Hampshire, and is widely considered the front-runner for the Democratic nomination.
Dean usually buys air time in $200,000 spurts, but he is pouring $400,000 to $500,000 into Iowa TV stations to air the new 60-second spot along with a 30-second ad already on the air there. It's the largest ad buy in the state to date, according to two senior officials in Dean's campaign who spoke on condition of anonymity.
One aide said the new spot -- the first biographical ad of his campaign -- seeks to broaden voter understanding of Dean. At 60 seconds, it is twice as long as a standard ad and twice as expensive. The buy is so large that the average Iowa TV viewer could see Dean commercials 18 times over 10 days.
The biographical ad shows Dean as a husband, family doctor and lieutenant governor. It talks about him taking classes at night to get into medical school; working in an emergency room in the Bronx with his wife, Judy; and becoming governor "under the worst of circumstances" when Gov. Richard Snelling died of a heart attack in 1991.
Bill Carrick, Gephardt's media advisor, said the buy proved that Dean's decision to opt out of the public financing system had nothing to do with challenging President Bush next year.
"It's evidence that it always had to do with him spending way more than the cap in Iowa," Carrick said. "He's trying to buy the Iowa caucuses."
A Dean spokeswoman said that was not true.
"We have said all along that we have to be able to compete with this president," said Tricia Enright. "The fact of the matter is that George W. Bush can begin airing ads against the Democrats whenever he wants to."
Dean has spent about $1.8 million on ads in Iowa, compared with about $1.2 million by Gephardt.
Meanwhile, retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark, who is running for president on his four-star military credentials, assailed Dean on Wednesday for spending time on the ski slopes after getting a medical deferment for a back condition during the Vietnam War.
"I didn't have as much practice skiing as the governor did. He was out there skiing when I was recovering from my wounds in Vietnam," Clark, a former supreme allied commander in Europe, said in Manchester, N. H.
Clark, who was an Army infantry officer and company commander in Vietnam, received the Purple Heart after being wounded in combat and was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action.
Dean's campaign condemned Clark for the comment made as the former Vermont governor was in Hawaii for the repatriation of remains believed to be those of Dean's brother, who has been missing since 1974.