Obama blankets TV with 30-minute ad

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Barack Obama pulled out all the political and technological stops Wednesday, barnstorming across Republican territory and blanketing the airwaves.

As an unusual 30-minute commercial aired on several broadcast and cable networks, the Democratic presidential nominee appeared here at a packed basketball arena with his running mate, Joe Biden. In what Obama aide Linda Douglass described as "a bit of a high-wire act," the campaign cut from the pre-taped ad with a live feed from the rally.

Obama's ad ran simultaneously on several broadcast and cable networks at a cost of more than $3 million. It intertwined the stories of families facing financial and personal difficulties with segments in which the candidate discussed how he plans to help them and other Americans like them overcome their challenges.

"This election is a defining moment," Obama said during the beginning of the ad. "The chance for our leaders to meet the demands of these challenging times and keep faith with our people."

The ad included testimonials about Obama from leading politicians, including two former rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, Biden and Gov. Bill Richardson. The ad didn't mention his current rival, Republican John McCain.

The airing of the ad highlighted the enormous financial advantage enjoyed by Obama, whose fundraising has been so successful that he opted out of the public campaign-finance system. McCain, who accepted public funding, is limited to $84 million for the general election campaign. Obama raised $153 million in September alone, and spent $106 million in the month of September.

After the rally, Obama was to head to his first joint campaign appearance with former president Bill Clinton, timed for the 11 p.m. ET news in central Florida, the state that gave President Bush the White House in 2000 and helped re-elect him in 2004. The pair's rally in Kissimmee, just outside Orlando, was scheduled to start at the same time that an interview Obama had with Jon Stewart aired on the comedian's Daily Show.

In the Stewart interview, Obama joked that his own children were appalled at his big television buy. He quoted his 10-year-old daughter, Malia, as saying " 'hold up a second. Are you saying that my programs are going to be interrupted?'

"I said, 'No, we didn't buy on Disney.' So she was relieved," Obama said.

In a sign of his confidence that his Democratic base is secure, Obama spent the day trolling for votes here and in North Carolina, two states where early voting is underway and where Republican presidential candidates usually win. The last Democratic presidential candidate to win North Carolina was Jimmy Carter in 1976. The last to win Florida was Clinton, who beat Bob Dole here 48%-42% in 1996.

The former president's willingness to share a stage with Obama also represents a sign of Obama's success in unifying the party after a bruising primary with the Clinton's wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.

In Raleigh, Obama poked fun at attacks on his economic policies by McCain. "By the end of the week, he'll be accusing me of being a secret Communist because I shared my toys in kindergarten," he told a lunchtime crowd of 28,000 in Raleigh.