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'50-state strategy' seen in Dean's TV ad push

MASON CITY, Iowa -- Howard Dean on Monday is launching a cross-country effort designed to seal the Democratic presidential nomination in the immediate aftermath of the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary in January.

Joe Trippi, Dean's campaign manager, announced yesterday that the former Vermont governor will start a multimillion-dollar, nonstop TV advertising spree in South Carolina and New Mexico beginning next week and continuing through Feb. 3, when those states vote. The campaign expects to begin similar ad buys within 10 days in two other states holding elections that day, Arizona and Oklahoma, with plans still under development for a third ad push in Missouri, North Dakota, and Virginia, the remaining states whose elections immediately follow the leadoff contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

On Sunday, the campaign will also air a 30-minute Dean infomercial in Madison, Wis., that is heavy on the physician-politician's biography. His aides hope the extended ad will attract supporters in later-voting states, such as Wisconsin, Washington, and Maine.

"We are continuing with our 50-state strategy," Trippi said in a conference call with reporters. "We believe that is the only kind of campaign that can be strong enough to win the nomination and build a grass-roots organization strong enough to beat [President] Bush in November."

Dean was more sanguine, saying after a speech to about 100 people gathered at the Mason City Public Library: "This is really not something new that's being rolled out Monday; it's more of a public acknowledgment of plans that have been going on for several months."

Yet the public push coincides with smaller signals that the Dean campaign, which has relished its outsider status and boasted constantly about its grass-roots underpinnings, is adopting the more cautious mantle of a front-runner.

Late this week, Dean started traveling on a separate plane from the press corps, which his staff had assiduously courted earlier in the race. Interaction with the governor was restricted to four or five questions following events yesterday in Iowa and Thursday in Texas. Dean's schedule has also filled with closed-door events as the campaign has sought money and courted support from members of the party establishment. One such meeting occurred in Dallas between Dean and Ron Kirk, a former mayor of Dallas and US Senate candidate in 2002.

The Rutland Herald also reported Thursday that Dean was planning to make only one visit to New Hampshire in the first half of this month, and instead concentrating his campaigning elsewhere in the country as he has opened up, according to two polls released this week, a 30-point lead in the Granite State. In Iowa, meanwhile, the campaign that once operated on a shoestring budget now travels with a satellite phone so Dean can be in constant contact across a state with spotty cellphone service.

Dean told reporters, during brief conversations Thursday in an airport terminal, that he objected to the separate travel arrangements, which aides said were saving the campaign $17,000. He also vehemently denied that he was ignoring New Hampshire in favor of other states.

"It's insane. You know what happens when you don't campaign in New Hampshire," Dean said, adding that his schedule for later this month includes more time in the Granite State. "We purposely made sure that we didn't short New Hampshire no matter what our lead was because I know what happens when you do that," he said.

Yesterday, during another five-minute session with the media, he said he would have to ponder whether his once free-wheeling campaign was becoming more cautious.

"I don't feel that, but that doesn't mean it's not happening," he said. "I'm less likely to mouth off -- although I should never have said that because now I probably will -- just because, as you get into national politics, the rules are a little different on the national press corps than they are on the local press corps and you've got to be more careful."

Nonetheless, he conceded his campaign was expanding its horizons.

"If you can't focus on what's beyond, we're not going to beat George Bush," Dean said "In the end, we're really not running against each other, we're running against George Bush."

Glen Johnson can be reached at

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