MN Sec. of State Candidate: Despite ammo, ad stays positive.

There are two notable things about the TV commercial Secretary of State candidate Mark Ritchie launched today: that a down-ballot candidate is running TV at all, and that Ritchie didn't unload his best ammo on his opponent, incumbent SoS Mary Kiffmeyer.

Ritchie's commercial doesn't go after Kiffmeyer's infamous proclamation that the "five words" that are "probably most destructive" in America today are "separation of church and state." He didn't bring up her unsuccessful attempt to prohibit off-reservation native Americans from voting using tribal ID cards. Most obvious, he didn't recall her September 2004 memo (and posters) sent to polling places that outlined the "Behaviors of Homicide Bombers" who might attempt to disrupt elections (key characteristics included a shaved head or the "smell of unusual herbal/flower water or perfume")--a move many interpreted as an attempt to scare off potential voters (who would likely vote Democratic).

Nope, Ritchie goes for a positive, homespun spot that only hints at Kiffmeyer's performance by promising that Ritchie, the DFL-endorsed candidate, will "get the politics out of the Secretary of State's office." With a folksy sound score, the spot's voiceover comes from Joan Growe, who preceded Kiffmeyer as Secretary of State. Growe's endorsement packs a punch: not only is she featured as a "High Profile Hottie" in the current issue of Mpls.St.Paul (they dubbed her a "Political Pioneer Beauty"), but as a 24-year secretary of state (1975–1999)--and the first woman in Minnesota history to hold statewide office--her endorsement (of a man, no less) carries extra weight.

Steven Schier, a professor of political science at Carleton College, says Ritchie's upbeat approach is a no brainer. Considering the power of incumbency and the low name recognition of many down-ballot candidates, "the first thing you have to do is introduce yourself to voters. You can’t do a negative ad until people know you exist. It’s campaining 101."

Schier can't recall a case in Minnesota's history when down-ballot candidates ran TV (there are two: State Auditor candidate Rebecca Otto launched her spot today), but he approves. "Voter identification is key to winning votes."

He adds that an attack on Kiffmeyer by Ritchie could backfire: "You run the risk of being identified as a partisian seeking an office that should be administered in a non-partisan manner."

adMN is an ongoing review of communications created to shape Minnesota's campaigns and culture.

1 comment:

Ag said...

Hey, great write up here. I am as impressed with this ad as you are.