WASHINGTON - The presidential ad war is off and running on televisions in nearly two dozen battleground states, as both Al Gore and George W. Bush work to sell themselves to voters in new campaign commercials.
Gore, the Democratic candidate, began a new spot Tuesday highlighting moments from his life story as he tries to capitalize on momentum from last week's convention and rising poll numbers.
He's matching Republican rival George W. Bush, who also is airing new ads, nearly dollar for dollar and state for state.
The Gore ad, airing in 17 states, begins with his decision to enlist in the Army despite deep misgivings about the Vietnam War. An announcer sketches what follows: Gore gives up on politics, works as a reporter and begins raising a family - and then dramatically reverses course and runs for Congress.
''Al Gore decided that to change what was wrong in America, he had to fight for what was right,'' the announcer says in a 60-second version of the ad, which initially will run in 16 of the 17 states. Later, after the initial wave of publicity, the campaign is likely to switch to a 30-second version in most places, a Gore aide said.
Democrats estimate that the Bush campaign is spending nearly $5.5 million this week, and an adviser said Gore would be spending about the same.
The ad is Gore's first since March, although the Democratic National Committee has aired nearly $30 million in ads on his behalf over the summer. The Republican National Committee also has been on the air with pro-Bush, anti-Gore spots.
In practice, there's little distinction between the party ads and campaign spots, which use the same footage, are often created by the same people and are placed by the same strategists.
But this week marks the start of the fall ad war. Each candidate came out of his convention with a bounce in the polls and $67.6 million in federal dollars to spend in the next 10 weeks.
With recent polls showing Gore pulling even with or slightly ahead of Bush, the Gore campaign hopes the new ad keeps the momentum going.
It ticks off a list of his accomplishments in Congress and in the Clinton administration, and rattles off some policy proposals - prescription drugs for seniors, accountability for schools, tax cuts for the middle class.
''His fight now is to ensure that prosperity enriches all our families, not just the few,'' the announcer says.
But while last week's convention speech and many of his stump speeches are laden with policy proposals, the ad focuses on Gore as a person.
It features images of Gore as a young man, including video of him in uniform, with his father, in footage shot for his dad's 1970 Senate re-election race. Later photos show Gore with his young family and in Congress, holding hearings. It closes with contemporary images of Gore speaking with voters at town hall meetings.
The Bush camp picked at one of the claims, that Gore ''fought to reform welfare,'' arguing that his role was exaggerated.
A pair of Bush ads, now running in 21 states, don't discuss Bush's personal history or record as governor of Texas.
The first, on education, laments that many children can't read, that violence is common in many schools and ''learning is rare.'' An announcer then ticks off ideas for solutions - focus on reading, restore local control, increase accountability.
The second ad features Bush issuing a call to take on tough problems, including reading, Social Security and ''a deficit in values.''
While the Bush and Gore ads are filled with positive messages, that might not be the case when their parties return to the airwaves - probably before Labor Day. Already, each party has aired spots attacking the opponent's record, and they are prepared to continue.
This week, both Bush and Gore are advertising in 17 states, most of which have already seen millions of dollars in party ads: Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington state, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
Bush also is advertising in Georgia, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Nevada.
A 30-second version of Gore's ad is running in Iowa.