Politically Savvy Friends

Thursday, October 11, 2007

DeSantis Campaign Ads Previewed

Dear Politically Savvy Friends,

If you missed my story last night on KDKA-TV, feel free to click http://kdka.com/video/?id=32817@kdka.dayport.com to see a sneak preview of Mark DeSantis' campaign ads. DeSantis allowed me to watch and listen to several of his campaign ads, as long as I didn't air the entire ads in advance of their publication. That was fair, since in a 90-second TV story I couldn't post the entire ad anyway.

Judge for yourself, but my take is that his approach for an initial kick-off ad makes some sense, although I think all of this may be too little, too late. DeSantis has decided to take head on the fundamental question of whether a Republican has a chance of getting elected in the city of Pittsburgh where something like 147,000 Democrats outnumber 29,000 Republicans and 25,000 Independents. The theme of these first radio and TV ads, simply put, is that DeSantis does have a chance and that if the "no chance crowd" had won we would not have had Renaissance I and II and great city fathers like David L. Lawrence and Richard S. Caliguiri.

Getting people to believe that a vote for DeSantis is not a total waste of a vote is a critical first step. The voting public likes to vote for winners, and right now Luke Ravenstahl, despite all the miscues, looks like the November 6 winner. One series of ads won't turn that around, but it's a start.

The next step for DeSantis is to convince Democrats that he is worthy of their vote. His campaign mailing to Democrats this week suggests that sometimes the candidate who best reflects Democratic values "isn't always a Democrat." It's a clever approach, but it requires Democrats to buy into the notion that Ravenstahl is really an ultra-conservative, anti-gay, anti-choice, pro-war clone of George W. Bush. I don't think it will sell, except to the most liberal of Democrats who already object to Luke on other grounds.

None of the DeSantis ads that I previewed over at Kolbrener, the ad agency that is making its first real foray into political campaigns, directly attack Luke Ravenstahl. That defies conventional wisdom, which would suggest some hard-hitting attack ads are needed to shake Democrats from their comfort level with Luke. Maybe they have something in the works, but for the moment it's all positive about Mark.

If DeSantis had money for a 10-week ad campaign, introducing the candidate in a positive way before going after the incumbent is always the best approach. But this campaign is down to just 3+ weeks. The few TV and radio ads I saw, while creative and well done, may not be enough to turn things around for DeSantis in such a short period of time. Still, I give the Republican a lot of credit for trying. It's good to see a race for mayor in November 2007 when most people in town think the real race is 18 months away in the Democratic primary of May 2009.

And that's exactly what the Ravenstahl team thinks, too, which helps explain why they do not (yet) plan to run radio and TV ads this fall, although look for plenty of lawn signs and some direct mail. The Ravenstahl theory is sound. If you're going to win anyways and don't really care whether the margin is 60% or 70%, why not save your million bucks for the battle that really counts. Any Democrat looking to take on Ravenstahl will have to think real hard if the incumbent has that kind of money in his warchest before the campaign even begins.

Bottom line. DeSantis' campaign ads have the potential to make this race more visible among rank-and-file Pittsburgh voters -- all 50,000 or 60,000 that will bother to vote -- but it may all be prelude to political battles ahead.


Mark Rauterkus said...

I have a one hour campaign show -- that can also be put into a 30-minute time slot. I've talked to KDKA folks about booking the time and working the costs.

Jon has had the DVD for nearly 3 weeks now.

He has yet to view it.

EdHeath said...

Much of the media (not to mention blog) coverage of the Mayor has been pretty negative. I think its possible that the DeSantis campaign is expecting the media to do the dirty work on running negative information on the Mayor. The Mayor's attitude towards local media, exemplified by his portrayal in the New York Times of the media as hounding him to the extent he can't enjoy a football game, seems to make this more likely, at least among some of the more excitable local media personalities.

I don't think enough analysis has been done of the two budget proposals, which arguably is what should be most important to voters. That probably should fall to print journalists, since as you say in TV have maybe ninety seconds to get a message out.

You know, it almost seems that if anyone would be a target for a Willie Horton-type ad in 2007, it would be Luke Ravenstahl. Maybe an ad on police and domestic violence. And with the internet you wouldn’t need to run the ad more than once before it became viral video. But it would be a tightrope walk, very easy to either be ho hum, go way overboard or descend into bad taste. Still, I hope one advertisement like that gets run. Attacking the inconsistency of the Mayor’s policy in that regard.

Anonymous said...

The Mayor should spend some money. If he gets under 60%, all heck is going to break loose in the Democratic Party.

I think that the Mayor self-inflicts his own wounds. There's no need to go negative when, every week, the Mayor is creating his own negative ad--against himself.