NRCC's New Ad: Money and Strategy

The charges in the new attack ad are essentially the same as those in Kuhl's earlier Social Security ad, so the same analysis applies.  What's interesting about this ad is who paid for it,  how it fits into Kuhl's overall campaign strategy, and what the Massa campaign will do about it.

The anti-Massa ad campaign was purchased as part of the NRCC's seven million dollar Friday media buy.  The NRCC paid $176K for it.  That's more than any single media buy listed in the last two campaign filings of either candidate.  It's also significantly more than the other large independent media expenditure in the 29th, the buy of $139K.

By comparison, from the last week in August to mid-October, Kuhl had spent a little over $500K on mass media, while Massa's spending total is about half of that, $244K.  (These numbers are roughly right - campaign expenditure reporting is a bit vague.)  The NRCC buy is more than two-thirds of all of Massa's spending for the last two months.  In other words, it's big.

In theory and by law, the NRCC expenditure is out of the control of the Kuhl campaign.  In practice and by common sense, one has to assume that party and candidate agree on a strategy in the last few weeks of an election.   

The NRCC/Kuhl issues strategy is a return to an old Republican standby, taxes, with a segue to Social Security.   By attacking on Social Security, which is proven kryptonite in campaigns, Kuhl hopes to make Massa spend the last few days of the race on the defensive instead of pushing the change message.  The media strategy is to let the NRCC do the real dirty work, since their ad doesn't have to include Kuhl's name or approval.  The use of "gunsights" in the ad, which makes Massa look like he wants to hunt down old people, is not far from a charge that he wants to smother kittens.  It's calculated to inflame the Massa campaign and partisans into a over-the-top response which changes the subject from change (which is a loser for Kuhl).

Some of the Massa campaign's recent rhetoric ("we will not unilaterally disarm") makes me think they might rise to the bait.  My guess is that whatever they produce will not be as visually negative as the NRCC ad.  I think the smart move is to take it down a notch, quickly deflect the Social Security charge, and return the focus to change.  Also, every ad should include a smiling Eric Massa, similar to the one who appeared in the Spitzer/Massa ad.

That's probably considered a "wimpy" strategy by partisans, but I think that a scoff rather than an earnest, defensive response is the right way to respond to over-the-top attacks.


I find that Mr. Massa's ads have been well produced and on target with the positive sounding messages. Interestingly is that the NRCC may be pushing for a depression in the Democratic vote, the challenge will be who and how many will get out.

I would wonder if all the money being raised this late in the race will truly make a difference. At this late date, would any new ad space be available. My guess would be that Mr. Massa uses the money to get a field operation that drives people to the polls, literally.

I agree that Massa + Clinton + Spitzer money will be used to GOTV to a degree not seen in the last few elections in the 29th.

I agree that negative vs negative ads might lead to a depression in the vote of marginal voters (Dems, Reps or Inds) who end up cynical about the whole process. But I also think that part of the aim of the SS ad series is to motivate marginally interested older base voters who might not otherwise vote.

And now an article in the "NYT"? You know, if Massa just keeps taking on Kuhl...on Social Security and the war...this guy may hold on to the Democratic registration in Steuben County and, with crossover elsewhere, make some history Election Night. Keep it up!! We haven't seenanything like this in a long time.