Clark to air commercials in three Feb. 3 primary states

Tuesday, December 2nd 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark will begin airing television commercials this week in three states with Feb. 3 primaries.

Clark's campaign is spending about $200,000 in each state _ South Carolina and Oklahoma beginning Tuesday and Arizona later this week _ to run his 60-second biographical ad that highlights his military career.

No Democrat has been on the air in several Feb. 3 states at one time since summer when front-runner Howard Dean ran commercials in several states.

The move is consistent with Clark's overall campaign strategy. The candidate decided to abandon Iowa, which holds its caucuses Jan. 19, and although he has focused on New Hampshire and its Jan. 27 primary, a win seems unlikely for the late entrant. The next tests come Feb. 3 in seven states.

Chris Lehane, a Clark adviser, said the campaign believes the retired Army general from Arkansas will do well in the three states because of their sizable number of veterans and location in the South.

``Given the fact that we have not spent a dime until literally today in these places, we think there is some potential for some significant growth there,'' Lehane said.

The $200,0000 buy is relatively large for each state, mainly because the ad is 60 seconds.

Campaign advisers say internal polling shows Clark either tied with or leading candidates at the top of polls in those states, and the ads are meant to boost voter knowledge of Clark, who entered the campaign Sept. 17.

Clark is among a group of candidates hoping to use the Feb. 3 primaries as a springboard to the nomination. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut also abandoned the Iowa caucuses to focus on campaigning in New Hampshire and states with later contests.

Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina is working toward strong finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, followed by a win in South Carolina and other Feb. 3 states.

Edwards has spent at least $500,000 to run ads in his native South Carolina since summer. He was on the air there for much of August and September, but ran no ads in October. He returned to the airwaves in November and has spent more than $100,000 on ads since then.

Other states holding contests Feb. 3 are Delaware, Missouri, New Mexico and North Dakota.