Biden ads focus on early-voting states as he counters Trump

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is committing to $6 million worth of television and digital advertising in the first four states on the 2020 election-year calendar. It’s the latest demonstration of an increasingly aggressive campaign as he tries to hold his place as the party’s top challenger to President Donald Trump.

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The ad buy comes as the former vice president steps up his counterattacks after disclosures about Trump’s effort to use the Ukrainian government to try to tarnish Biden, which has driven the Democratic-controlled House to undertake an impeachment inquiry.

Biden still sits atop most national Democratic primary polls, but Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren gained ground throughout the summer and pulled even or surpassed Biden in some recent Iowa and New Hampshire surveys.

Warren recently announced a $10 million advertising commitment in the early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, where Biden is now focusing his ad buys. Trump has raised hundreds of millions of dollars and is blanketing social media with advertising.

Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said Thursday that the campaign would be spending $1 million to run a Biden-Ukraine ad in the first four states on the 2020 calendar.

The Trump ad highlights Biden's efforts to make U.S. aid to Ukraine contingent on that country firing its chief prosecutor and claims that the fired prosecutor was investigating Biden’s son, Hunter, who had served on the board of a Ukrainian energy firm. It also accuses Democrats of trying to "steal the 2020 election" by impeaching Trump.

But the prosecutor had failed to pursue any major anti-corruption investigations, leaving Ukraine's international donors deeply frustrated. In pressing for the prosecutor's ouster, Biden was representing the official position of the U.S. government, which was shared by other Western allies and many in Ukraine.

Biden’s buy will include digital platforms YouTube, Hulu and streaming services for news and sports. The campaign says the effort will highlight Biden’s “core messages.” Those have combined dire warnings about Trump as a threat to the nation with policy proposals aimed at improving health care, education and economic opportunities for the middle class.

Biden first two television ads in Iowa offer clues for how the campaign hopes to promote Biden’s candidacy while making his arguments against Trump. One ad mixed images of Trump, Biden and former President Barack Obama. A voice-over describes Trump as “an erratic, vicious bullying president” and Biden as the “strong, steady, stable” alternative.

The second Iowa ad featured Biden talking about the 1972 car accident that killed his first wife and daughter, and the cancer diagnosis that claimed his adult son, Beau. “The fact of the matter is, health care is personal to me,” Biden said.

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Follow Barrow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BillBarrowAP .

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Associated Press writer Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.