Monthly Archives: September 2014

Defensive Tactics

Kentucky Senate


“Skeet Shooting”

Democratic nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes just launched a new television ad to strike back against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s hard-hitting campaign against her. But the ad likely misses its mark. In reality, the message context may be reinforcing her opponent’s points instead of scoring some of her own.

Grimes, reciting her lines as she’s shooting skeet ostensibly to prove that she can handle a gun, directly responds to being painted a rubber stamp for the president by simply saying she’s not Barack Obama. Though the script takes an offensive tone, attempting to turn the tables on McConnell, the message fails. If anything, Grimes underscores the Republican attacks against her: that she supports Obama whose job approval score in Kentucky is 2:1 negative, while reiterating the charges that she is soft on guns and the EPA anti-coal regulations.

The campaign ad fails because it repeats the attacks being made against the candidate, and then likely leads the viewer to ask questions rather than providing answers.

Alaska Senate


“Message for Begich”

In a new ad, the Dan Sullivan (R) campaign attempts to repel Sen. Mark Begich’s (D) attacks that he (Sullivan) is an outsider who knows little about the “real Alaska”. Begich has been hitting Sullivan because he hasn’t personally lived in Alaska long, even though his wife, Julie Fate Sullivan, and her family have been mainstays in the state for years.

The theme of the ad, narrated by Mrs. Sullivan, is that Begich is attacking his opponent for being away on military duty and in State Department service. Whether this explanation completely covers where Dan Sullivan lived or for how long he’s been an Alaskan is unclear, but will undoubtedly be a topic of further discussion.

The ad is moderately effective because it attempts to change the dynamic when answering an attack. It will be interesting to see how Begich’s campaign responds, and whether the incumbent can again shift attention toward Sullivan’s lack of a sufficiently long Alaska history.

Iowa Senate

http://youtu.be/F_JqmuNkZ30
“Ernst: Really Cares”

Democrats and outside organizations have been attacking Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst for wanting to “cut Social Security and Medicare.” Ernst responds to the attacks by not directly mentioning them. Rather, she extols her support for Social Security as a fundamental goal and attempts to deflect the direct attacks subtly, through what should be perceived as a positive ad.

Hearing the exact opposite message from what is being launched in attacks will likely leave many viewers confused, which is a far better alternative than seeing a clear negative image.

The Ernst campaign presents an interesting approach, but a routine positive ad is often not memorable. The ad’s underlying purpose is to let voters see the candidate and encourage voters to form a positive image of Ms. Ernst, not necessarily through the ad’s script or the state legislator’s words, but through an image that can be seen and heard. The goal is to present the candidate as a disarming person, convincing the viewer that she would never harm those earning government transfer payments.

The Ernst counter is certainly acceptable, but not particularly memorable. Therefore, the ad does not fully cement the campaign’s stated goals in the viewers’ minds.

Loras College Polls Size Up Iowa House Races

Another institution of higher learning has released political polling data, this time targeting US House elections in one particular state.

Dubuque’s Loras College conducted a statewide poll of the Hawkeye State electorate and divided the respondents evenly among Iowa’s quartet of congressional districts. At least to a degree, all of the campaigns are competitive. The methodology included weighting the responses for demographic characteristics but not political party preference. Therefore, the overall sample appears skewed Democratic by more than two full percentage points.

The pollsters first asked about President Obama’s job approval, and found that only 41 percent of the sampled respondents (300 per congressional district) expressed positive sentiments. A clear majority, 53 percent, disapproves of how he handles his official duties. In a state that twice voted for Obama and gave him six- and 10-point victory margins in 2012 and 2008, respectively, these job performance numbers have to be considered poor.

The survey questionnaire also featured a query about the direction of the country’s policies, commonly referred to as the “right track/wrong track” question. Here, as in all Continue reading >

Pressler A Factor in South Dakota

Weeks ago, it became a foregone conclusion that Republican former Gov. Mike Rounds would win the open South Dakota US Senate contest for the right to succeed the retiring Sen. Tim Johnson (D), but that analysis may be changing. Former Sen. Larry Pressler (R), now running as a left-leaning Independent, is surprisingly becoming a serious factor as the campaign enters the political stretch drive.

A new Survey USA poll (Sept. 3-7; 500 likely South Dakota voters) finds the former two-term governor still leading the race but coming back to the pack, while Pressler is the clear gainer. According to this sampling universe, Rounds attracts 39 percent support as compared to Democrat Rick Weiland, a former aide to ex-US Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), who sits 11 points behind at 28 percent. But the story is Pressler’s 25 percent attribution level.

Larry Pressler, now 72 years old, was originally elected to the House in the Watergate year of 1974. He was re-elected in 1976 before successfully winning his Senate seat two years later. He won twice more before falling to Johnson, then a congressman, in the 1996 election. The former senator endorsed Barack Obama for President in 2008, and then again in his re-election drive four years later. As part of Continue reading >

Tierney Out in Mass.; Tepid Victories Elsewhere

Massachusetts

In the last major primary of the 2014 election cycle, nine-term Rep. John Tierney (D-MA-6) became the fourth US House member to lose renomination this year, thus ending his congressional career. Iraq War veteran Seth Moulton denied Tierney the opportunity of continuing as the Democratic standard bearer with a substantial 49-41 percent victory spread against a sitting incumbent.

The Tierney defeat is really a term late. With his wife being convicted of federal tax fraud for filing illegal returns associated with her brothers’ illicit off-shore Internet gambling business several months prior to the 2012 election, Tierney barely escaped losing to former state Sen. Richard Tisei (R). The congressman won re-election 46-45 percent, even after he stopped campaigning and spending money with weeks remaining in the election cycle because he thought he was finished. Though a surprise comeback winner in 2012, his inherent political weakness made him highly vulnerable against a strong Democratic primary opponent this year.
Continue reading >

Twists and Turns in Kansas

Senate

When Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor (D) announced that he was withdrawing from the US Senate race in Kansas in order to give better-performing Independent Greg Orman the opportunity to politically isolate vulnerable US Sen. Pat Roberts (R), the “what if” caucus sprung into action. Though we’ve had many twists and turns around this story during the past week, much speculation abounds as to exactly what will happen in a Roberts-Orman contest, and who would be most adversely affected by the Democratic nominee leaving the political battlefield.

Survey USA provides us our first glimpse into how the candidate field divides sans Taylor. The most definitive number prior to him expressing his desire to leave, a Public Policy Polling study that apparently contributed to Taylor understanding that he had little, if any, chance to win the Senate race, found Orman leading Sen. Roberts 43-33 percent. S-USA sees it differently.

At this moment, Taylor’s name will still appear on the Nov. 4 ballot. The Kansas secretary of state ruled shortly after the Democratic nominee’s desired withdrawal that Taylor’s name would remain on the ballot because Kansas law only allows a post-nomination change in candidate status Continue reading >