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VOL. 123 | NO. 14 | Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Obama Starts TV Ads in 4 Tennessee Markets

By BILL POOVEY | Associated Press Writer

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CHATTANOOGA (AP) - Barack Obama is running television advertisements in Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga and Knoxville, in what supporters say is the first such market buy for Tennessee's Feb. 5 Democratic presidential primary.

The honorary chairman of Obama's Tennessee campaign, Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, said the ads that focus on ethics and making changes in Washington started running Thursday.

"I think you are going to see we are the most active" presidential campaign in Tennessee, Cooper said in a telephone news conference Friday.

Obama's campaign declined to release the cost of the ad buy, which Cooper said would likely continue until the primary.

Cooper said Obama's campaign also already has thousands of volunteers making telephone calls and knocking on doors. Obama has a campaign office in Nashville and last week opened one in Memphis.

Tennessee Democratic Party spokesman Wade Munday predicted a "really tight race" among Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.

After speaking Friday to a group of high school students about the legacy of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen said "part of the enormous success that Senator Obama has had is that he calls to those same impulses in people that Martin Luther King did - to be better than ourselves and to really believe in the future. He's done a very good job of engaging a lot of people in the political process. I admire him for it."

Obama visited Nashville last June to meet with Bredesen and legislators while in town for private campaign events. He also appeared with former U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. during Ford's unsuccessful bid for Senate in 2006.

During that visit Obama said he wanted to learn more from Tennessee Democrats who have attracted Republican and independent voters.

Adrienne Elrod, a spokeswoman for Hillary Clinton, said a Clinton campaign office would be opening Tuesday in Nashville. Elrod was not aware of any plans for TV ads in Tennessee.

Edwards does not yet have a campaign office in the state, supporters said. Chris Kofinis, an Edwards spokesman, said in a statement that the campaign in coming weeks "will be building on our strong base of support and aggressively reach out to voters all across Tennessee" with its message.

Republican presidential candidates Fred Thompson and Ron Paul also have opened state campaign headquarters in Nashville.

Munday said fund raising figures and conversations with Democrats show "really broad support" for the candidates.

The Democratic presidential nominee has not carried Tennessee in a general election since Bill Clinton in 1996.

Associated Press Writer Lucas L. Johnson II contributed to this report from Nashville.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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