Archive (2006)

NRCC Robo Calls

The Rural Patriot reports on receiving two calls from the NRCC.  The subject of the first was immigration, and the second, taxes.  Patriot adds an analysis of the claims made in the calls.

As the election nears, more communication will be targeted, and more of it will be "under the radar" - in the form of calls and mailers.  Calls like this aren't very effective, but they're also pretty cheap, especially if they're robo-calls.


The "big story" this morning is the disruption (video) of a Kuhl press conference in Corning by a group of Massa supporters, who tried to get Massa signs in the background.  The event was scheduled by Kuhl to announce a grant for some improvements to downtown Corning.  Kuhl announced a similar grant Friday in Elmira. 

In the video, Kuhl complains about being thwarted "doing his job".  That's news to me:  I thought near-election press events pimping pork were "campaigning", not "doing your job". 

In other unimportant news, the latest Massa ad has been pulled by WETM, a TV station in Elmira, because it contained a shot of one of their reporters and their logo.  The Massa campaign called it an "honest mistake" and are re-cutting the ad without the shot.

Massa 53%, Kuhl 42%

A new Majority Watch poll in the 29th, taken from October 24 to October 26 and released today, shows little movement from the last poll taken ten days earlier (52%/40%).  The crosstabs [pdf] are almost identical to the last one, and the same grim conclusions can be drawn for the Kuhl campaign. 

Looking through the races at's House page, it looks like NY-20 is still one of the area races where Majority Watch and other pollsters disagree.  In that more heavily polled race, Majority Watch leans farther toward the Democrat, Kirsten Gillibrand, than even her own polls.  Yet there are a number of other races were Majority Watch is consistent with other non-partisan polls.  So this one could be dead on, or out to lunch.  We'll find out a week from tomorrow.

GOTV Evidence

Reader Jack writes to inform us that the Massa Campaign, MoveOn and the DNC are running a targeted GOTV effort in Henrietta, concentrating on registered Democrats who don't vote regularly.  Anyone interested in this effort can meet tonight (10/30) or tomorrow night (10/31) at 7 p.m. at the Apollo Restaurant, 2091 East Henrietta Rd.

I've done this kind of stuff before.  It's hard work, and I have a soft spot for anyone who does it.  If you have a unique, not otherwise publicized GOTV effort for either candidate, feel free to send it in. I'll pimp it to my massive readership. As long as your realize that by "massive", I mean "tiny". 

Nobody's Getting Rich

Those who are considering voting in the 29th race can be sure of one thing:  neither Randy Kuhl nor Eric Massa are getting rich on this deal.   A recent Money magazine article detailing the Massa family finances shows that he's taking a major financial risk running for Congress.  (By the way, that article is full of interesting detail on Massa beside his finances, and is worth a read.)  Randy Kuhl's most recent financial filing [pdf] indicates that his twenty years in the state legislature have left him with a pension, a house, and a small condo in Florida.   Whether you agree or disagee with his positions on the issues, he certainly hasn't used his office to line his pockets.

Citizen Journalism

Area bloggers have been doing some original -- and interesting -- reporting on the race in the 29th.

Rochesterturning has two recent 29th-related reports. The first is an in-depth study of Randy Kuhl' s votes on Social Security. The second is a first-person account of Laura Bush's visit.

The Rural Patriot reports on Kuhl's assertion that he's being Google-bombed. I agree with the Patriot: bogus.

Massa's New Ad: Not Smart

Sometimes too smart is not smart, and that's what's going on with Massa's latest ad.

Like most voters, I don't like negative ads, and I don't they're as effective as campaigns believe. That said, as a negative ad, Massa's is pretty tame. It calls Kuhl a liar and paints him in unflattering poses, but it doesn't include a lot of the outrageous imagery (sniper sights, playboy bunnies, etc.) seen in end-of-campaign ads in this and other races.

By the standard of negative ads, it's also not especially stupid. It doesn't expect us to swallow claims that we wouldn't believe about any politician. For example, if voters know anything about Kuhl, they probably know he supported private accounts (or "privatization") for Social Security. And Batiste did say what he's quoted as saying.

The problem with Massa's ad is the flip-side of stupidity: an overly complex message.

Kuhl's most recent negative ads carry a simple message: Eric Massa will raise taxes and gut Social Security.

Massa's response to Kuhl's two-note song is a MTV blitz of images. It starts with the weakest claim, that Kuhl lied about bringing jobs upstate, which was actually more of an exaggeration than a lie. It continues to the issues of social security, taxes, veterans benefits and the war in Iraq (via the Batiste quote). All in 30 seconds.

Because it's hell-bent on getting punch-backs on every single real or perceived slight in the campaign, the ad tries to do too much. Massa would have been better off sticking to two things: hitting Kuhl on Social Security and taxes, and saying he'll be a voice for change. The word "change" -- which is the key message word for Democrats this cycle -- doesn't even appear in the ad.

New Massa Attack Ad

The Massa campaign has started running a new TV ad attacking Randy Kuhl.  It contains a lot of grainy, black-and-white images of Kuhl, along with some brief glimpses of a couple of Kuhl ads, and a shot of Maj Gen (Ret) John Batiste.  Here's the script, read by a female announcer:

Randy Kuhl's not telling can't handle the truth.  He lied about bringing jobs upstate.  And Randy Kuhl's lying about Eric Massa on taxes and Social Security. The truth is Randy Kuhl tried to privatize Social Security. And he voted to cut Veterans' benefits.  No wonder General John Batiste said 'Randy Kuhl, he's not informed, he doesn't have moral courage, this guy needs to go.'  If Randy Kuhl won't trust us with the truth, we can't trust him with our vote.

The ad uses images from the first Kuhl Social Security ad, so my guess is that this ad was produced before the "Sniper" ad.     I'll post a video if it becomes available.  (Update:  Fixed the script, and video after the break.  This video doesn't have the "I approve this ad" tagline of the one I saw broadcast.)

Porno for Pols

Elmira TV station WETM has produced a "truth squad" story featuring political expert Stephen Coleman, who teaches at Elmira College.  Coleman, who generally gives good quote, calls the Kuhl "Sniper" ad "political pornography" and "un-American".  The WETM piece, along with story by WROC in Rochester, carry the Kuhl campaign's claim that they aren't responsible for the ad, find it "inappropriate" and have asked the NRCC to pull it.

Today's Washington Post profiles media strategists for both parties, and says this about the Republican media buyer:

His own polls showed a growing number of House Republicans in serious trouble [...] [He] had little choice but to buy ads to protect suddenly at-risk Reps. Charles Bass (N.H.) and John R. "Randy" Kuhl Jr. (N.Y.).

The story also notes that the Republicans can turn around an ad in as little as 24 hours. One day in production sounds about right for the "Sniper" ad.

Star-Gazette Endorses Kuhl

Today's Elmira Star-Gazette endorsed Randy Kuhl. Their editorial includes this statement:

That's not to say he hasn't disappointed us with his position on Iraq calling for a pullout as soon as possible but unwilling to label Bush's policy the failure that it is.

That sentence leaves the mis-impression that Kuhl's position and the President's position differ, but Kuhl's just too polite to criticize Bush. That's not the case: Kuhl has consistently supported continuing the war, and his position has been indistinguishable from Bush's. At a couple of debates, Kuhl express the "wish" that the war was over today, but everyone "wishes" that. A sentiment is not a position. He also criticized Massa's strategy, which would lead to an earlier pullout than Bush's.

It's incredible that a newspaper could be wrong on something so fundamental.

Laura's Visit

The Laura Bush visit is the top news item in the 29th's media outlets today. Many of the regions papers put it on their front page. There's newspaper coverage in Rochester, Corning, Canandaigua and Hornell, and the visit also made a big splash on Rochester Television.

Bush's appearance was 15 minutes long, and she highlighed the major accomplishments of the three Congressman (Kuhl, Tom Reynolds and Jim Walsh) for whom she was speaking. She said this about Kuhl:

In Washington, Congressman Kuhl works to make sure New York’s tax dollars are spent wisely and responsibly … and he supports President Bush’s tax cuts.

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.