Pop quiz, hotshot. You are an underdog candidate in a race against an opponent with more cash, a better ground game, and better connections. Your assets in the race are that you are running in the bluest district in the state, you are seeking to replace a well-liked congressman, and your opponent carries some pretty significant baggage from his days as a Rove underling. If you decide to hit the airwaves first, thus putting yourself in a position to frame the debate to a certain extent, what message do you go with?
If you said “clean up Washington D.C. corruption,” I can only assume that you are on Joyce Elliott’s staff.
Let’s see, you start out with a general complaint about campaign gifts and some news blurbs about ethics/fundraising/whatever. From there, it’s news headlines about AIG and Goldman Sachs as you decry “bailouts and tax loopholes for corporations that gouge us and ship our jobs overseas.” Then, following your campaign’s policy of having the most abrupt segues possible, we jump into a music change and you telling us that it’s time for reform, via Elliott’s plan, which you explain will “end automatic pay raises for Congress,” end trips and gifts to Congress from special interest groups, and make all meetings between congressmen and lobbyists public record.
While these ideas may all have their merits, does anyone else see a problem here? First of all, the pay-raise thing wasn’t even part of what you complained about in the opening, yet you lead off with it as a solution to ending corruption, as if automatic raises were somehow at the root of the stuff you did mention. Second, and much more importantly, you don’t say a single word about bailouts, tax loopholes, or outsourcing in your plan. Meaning, of course, that you just brought up these things that people here have actually indicated are issues that concern them (as opposed to, say, automatic pay raises) and then failed to even give lip service to possible solutions.
Really? You are a Democrat running for a seat currently held by, arguably, the most popular Democrat in the state, and you are facing a Bush/Rove lackey with a record of suppressing minority votes, and you choose this approach?? Pardon my iFrench, but WTF? Oh, I totally understand that you have been painted as this radical liberal — thanks, Robbie! — and that you now have no choice but to move toward the center if you are going to shake that label. I get that. I don’t even fault you for having an ad that takes on Washington, considering that anti-Washington sentiment is pervasive around here these days.
What I do fault you and your camp for, however, is squandering a chance to really frame the debate, either by making an issue of something (perhaps “protecting voters’ rights” or “not returning to failed Bush-era policies”) that would require Timmy! Griffin to fight that battle from an unfavorable position, or by drawing parallels between your record as a legislator at the state level and Vic Snyder’s record in D.C. (i.e. “like Congressman Snyder, I [insert typical campaign rhetoric]”). You had a great opportunity here, at least insofar as people care one way or the other about what they see/hear in commercials, and you blew it. Nothing in this ad requires Timmy! to change his message, nor does any of it, save perhaps the misguided “reform” message, provide something that you can build on moving forward.
It’s simply a forgettable and uninteresting ad, which, I fear, is how Elliott’s campaign is likely to be viewed down the road if she doesn’t make some major changes in strategy, tone, and tempo. So, again I say, “ugh.”