Campaign Advertisements

All Kinds of Ads

Rochesterturning reports that the New York State Republican Party is distributing mailers that feature the picture of a terrorist and the slogan

Democrats are More Concerned with Protecting the Rights of Terrorists than Protecting the Lives of Americans

Classy, yet understated.

The Kuhl campaign is running two new ads.  One is a remix of the attacks on Massa, and it claims that he'll raise taxes and cut Social Security benefits.  I saw it last night, but it hasn't hit YouTube.   The second ad is an endorsement by State Senator Kathy Young, and you can view it after the break.

Ad Tweaks and Internet Ads

Reader Rich writes to report that he saw a slightly altered version of the RNCC "Sniper" ad.  Instead of a the crosshairs of a rifle scope, the ad showed "pictures and a dart".   No video has been posted of the altered ad.

The Massa campaign's media firm has posted a slightly altered version of the "Kuhl's a liar" ad.  This version doesn't contain the shot of the WETM newswoman that caused WETM to pull the ad.  It also says it was approved by Massa but sponsored by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which indicates that the DCCC might be spending on ads in the 29th.  That would be a "coordinated" rather than an "independent" expenditure, and if so, it hasn't been posted yet by the FEC.

Majority Action, an independent action group, has posted an Internet-only ad in opposition to Randy Kuhl's position on stem cells.   Both the Majority action ad and the new Massa ad can be seen after the break:

New Massa Ad:

Stem Cell Ad:

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.

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.


Rochesterturning is reporting that a new RNC National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC)  attack ad is running in the Corning area.  Apparently the subject is Social Security, and the images involve old ladies in the cross-hairs.   (Update:  NRCC, not RNC.  Video after the break.)

New Massa-Spitzer Ad

The Massa campaign has posted a new ad.  The theme is how Massa and Eliot Spitzer will work together.  Video after the break:

Kuhl's Social Security Ad

In Randy Kuhl's new ad, we see the staple of Social Security propaganda:  the confused and outraged old person.  After the obligatory grainy black-and-white montage,  Granny appears and delivers the line: "Raise taxes?  Cut benefits?  Sounds to me like this fella Massa has his priorities a little messed up."

Well, Granny, someone whose priority list includes "remember stool softener" and "put teeth in glass next to bed" probably shouldn't be throwing stones.  Nevertheless, I'm going to try to reason with you.  Turn up your hearing aid for a moment, and I'll tell you how Randy Kuhl tried to pull a fast one on people like me by using you to change the subject.

Let's start with the one citation in Kuhl's ad:  a 15-month-old story in the Elmira Star-Gazette (which is still in Google's cache).  In that story, Massa talked about a four-point plan:

  1. Raise the income ceiling for the Social Security deduction exemption above $90K.
  2. Delay benefits for people just entering the workforce (and the SS system).
  3. Exempt the first $10,000 of income from Social Security taxes.
  4. Stop raiding the SS trust fund for general revenue.

This plan is a bit different from the one Massa mentioned in the debate, and I'll get to that in a moment.  But first, does this mean he'll raise taxes?  The median family income in the 29th was about $50K last census.  Almost 5% of families had an income less than $10K.  This means that the vast majority of the 29th won't pay more tax, and the poorest would actually pay less.

Will he cut benefits?  Not for Granny, or anyone else retiring in the next 40 years.  This plan raises the retirement age , which hasn't happened since the beginning of the Social Security program.  A modest increase in the retirement age for those who will be healthier longer is not "cutting benefits" for people like Granny.

Even so, over the last year, Massa has changed his position.  In the debates, and in a recent interview, he mentioned only reindexing the income cap from $90,000 to $140,000.  His argument is that the cap was based on the 90th percentile income in the early 80's and hasn't changed.  His plan just keeps up with inflation and wage growth, and he thinks this will take care of the system for many years. So, as with the old plan, taxes will be raised on the small percentage of the residents in the 29th who make more that $90K.

The positive content of Kuhl's ad is a distortion but not an outright lie. The real issue with Kuhl's ad is what's missing:  a plan to fix the system.  Unlike Granny, I don't know anyone of my generation or younger who plans to receive a single cent from Social Security.  While everyone pays attention to seniors' incessant whining about their supposedly scant benefits, the post-baby-boomer generation is quietly planning for a future without any benefits whatsoever, since their financial planners won't even include Social Security in retirement income projections.   Our frustration and cynicism grows as plans like Massa's, which are modest and practical, get shot down over and over by scare ads, like Kuhl's, that are aimed at the elderly.  The only programs that end up being discussed are ones, like privatization, that promise fairy-tale endings without sacrifice.

Kuhl has no plan, only a sentiment:  "I regard Social Security as sacred trust".  He was on-board with the soundly rejected Bush plan to privatize Social Security, and he now makes the inane distinction between "privatizing" and "private accounts", saying he's for the latter and not the former.  Well, I'm for eating all the ice cream I want, but not getting fat.  Randy's Social Security "policy" is the financial equivalent of that impossible dream. 

The Kuhl fast one is criticizing someone who makes hard choices without making any of his own, and advancing the fiction that Social Security can be fixed without hard choices.  But that doesn't matter, because Granny is pissed, and a 30-second ad will probably get her to the polls to vote against that bad, bad man, Eric Massa, who's trying to raise her taxes and take away her benefits.

Kuhl's New Ad

According to Rochesterturning, Randy Kuhl is airing a new ad attacking Eric Massa on Social Security.  I'll post a video and a review once I see it.  Update:  Video after the break.

Syndicate content