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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Comparing Weaponry in the Wisconsin Ad Wars

Earlier this week, the Republican Governors Association announced an ad buy for Wisconsin in support of Governor Walker. My first impression of the spot was that it seemed lazy and unlikely to make any difference. It's basically everything Walker has been saying all along, adapted to attack ad format. This hasn't been working for him so far and it's unlikely that converting it to ad form will make it work any better. By this time, everyone knows the facts -- that is, everyone who cares to know the facts -- and all this messaging has been spectacularly ineffective.

But you know the GOP motto; if something is failing, do more of it.

When it came out, Greg Sargent did some adbusting. The spot was "premised on a serious distortion that borders on an outright falsehood," Sargent wrote. I don't know why the equivocation though -- the ad doesn't border on being a lie, it is a lie. Walker doesn't need to do away with collective bargaining to balance the budget. He has a balanced budget now. In fact, the ad doesn't even mention bargaining, as if there's someone in Wisconsin who has no idea what this is all about and can be hoodwinked. Like I say, lazy. Not to mention insulting to people's intelligence.

Now I want you to check out an ad from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America:

See, now this is how you do it. It's a mostly factual ad -- and I say that not because I detect any dishonesty in there, but because it includes opinions that can neither be verified nor disproved. This isn't some lazy political ad, hacked together at the last minute from news stills and stock photography. This is thirty seconds of what amounts to documentary cinema -- seriously, it's beautiful. Meanwhile, the Republican Governors Association put together the typical political hack slide show.

While both groups say these are "significant" ad buys, what the ads look like tells you a lot. The pro-Walker ad is bloodless, like something you do because you have to, not because you're a believer in your cause. It's veracity or lack thereof aside, it's weak and empty and probably more than a little pointless. No one's going to watch that ad and switch sides. I don't even think it'd knock anyone off the fence. It simply exists because someone thinks it has to.

I don't want to get too far into reading tea leaves here, but I think this shows that support for Walker in his own party is weak. Yeah, they spent a lot of money airing the ad, but they didn't bust anyone's budget producing it. I think it exists merely to show Walker's supporters that the GOP is doing something and that's about the extent of it. With the governor's polling dropping like a rock in Wisconsin and his positions on labor doing just as badly nationally, the GOP seems to have no appetite for this fight.

If they did, they'd throw anything but the weakest of punches.


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