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August 26, 2010 11:40 PM UTC

Bennet Goes on Attack Early, Still Hasn't Defined Himself

  • by: jW

Michael Bennet released his first general TV ad today. Aimed at exposing his opponent as not right for Colorado, the ad highlights a variety of video clips of Ken Buck speaking about his views on abortion, social security, student loans and the Dept. of Ed.

Watch the ad:

I understand the topic and timing of the ad. By focusing on Buck’s conservative statements, viewers will judge the republican as too extreme. But more importantly, as Pols has been saying for weeks, this will be the first time many people will have been introduced to Buck’s views on these matters. From here on out, people will judge him based on this first impression. As Buck attempts to move back to the center and appeal to moderates, the voters will believe he is flip flopping. In this game, sometimes it is all about first impressions.

I think the ad is effective in that it paints Buck as out of touch with Coloradoans. My problem is actually that it came from the Bennet camp.

Senator Bennet spent the primary campaigning on “Cleaning Up Washington” and being an outsider. Against Romanoff, the message was marginally effective. Romanoff has been a life-long politician and hasn’t had a “real job”, and Bennet could still ride the Change-train because he’d only been in the Senate for a year. Yet, for the general election, that message won’t fly against Buck. In fact, we’ll most likely hear the same thing out of the Buck camp, playing Bennet as a Washington Insider.

I’m disappointed with the ad because I would have liked to see Bennet start out with a brand positive campaign focused on why we should vote for him. Instead we got a message focused on why we shouldn’t vote for the other guy. Throughout the primary my biggest complaint against Bennet was that he never defined himself. He’s run a very conservative campaign, one where you could basically insert any smart, white, male politician with his record, and it wouldn’t make a difference. But for the general, I think Bennet will need to get in front of voters in a more personal way. He needs to find the right message for people at home to think to themselves, “I’d like to have a beer with him.” I think that aspect will determine whether this is an exciting election, or it turns into a lesser of two evils kind of election.


16 thoughts on “Bennet Goes on Attack Early, Still Hasn’t Defined Himself

    1. Cute, but it doesn’t tell me much about the candidate. I suppose it’s nice to know that his kids have personality.

      And again, this ad is about him cleaning up Washington. That message will resonate a lot further when Buck says it. People are short sited. Bennet can’t claim he’s going to clean up the mess that most people will assume he made.

  1. They’re going to listen to their own polling about what needs to be done and what the message needs to be, and what medium to use to deliver that message.

    1. Those polls were done when there was a 527 attacking bennet on TV, but no answer form the left yet. Another poll done soon after shows bennet up 4.

      Personally, I don’t think either one of those polls has much relevance. It’s too early and neither one of them has really gotten into the general election fight, yet.

  2. The Bennet budget should allow for some late-season “drinking buddy” branding and more ads like the Bennet kids ad (which makes me happy every time I see it).  But, fighting negative Tea Party ads too late may have cost Lisa Murkowski Alaska’s senate seat; and going very negative very early in Arizona probably helped John McCain keep his.

    Timing is everything and, sadly, Bennet is not only fighting off new, post-primary negative 527 ads, there are still plenty of independent voters who have Romanoff’s negative ads somewhere in their consciousness.  

    1. This is an attack ad, pure and simple. And it’s a really good attack ad. Again, my biggest complaint during the primary was that Bennet didn’t put himself in front of the voters, which was fine, given his lead. I don’t believe he will have that luxury against Buck. If Bennet stays hidden for too long, the vote will be between “The guy screwing everything up in Washington” and “The crazy guy who doesn’t know what he believes in”. Given the political climate, that almost sounds like a toss up to me.

        1. IIRC, his six commercials didn’t do much for me in regards to showing his human side. The one in particular that deliberately attempted to provide a deeper look into Bennet (Challenging the Old Ways –… ) wasn’t spoken in first person, asking people to get to know him, but instead it was spoken in a manner at which we (the viewer) were already meant to have accepted the claims that were made. For me, it did more harm than good, as it reinforced my problem with his inaccessibility and distant nature.

          He doesn’t do radio, he turned down multiple opportunities to debate during the primary, and he hasn’t made many appearances. Now, I understand, he’s a working Senator. He can’t be in two places at once. But Buck can be, and he will take advantage of every opportunity available to him to be in front of the voters (see Romanoff’s Birthday Party).

          I know Bennet has a town hall in the near future, so hopefully more events like that will change my opinion, but as of now, Buck is playing the voters as a “look you in the eye and shake your hand” kind of man which, unfortunately, to a lot of people, means more than how you’ll vote on the issues.

          1. Here is the evidence we have so far as to how the ads are working.  The ads are directed to defining Buck as too extreme to the Indy voter.

            Aug 12, before ad, Buck was +5 with Indy voters in Rasmussen.

            Aug 29, after ad has been up, Buck is up +11 with indy voters.

            The ad is not the only variable at play, but I would be hard pressed to conclude it is working.

    1. look, Bennet has been senator two years now, and is pretty well defined.  But how many unafiliated or D voters really know much about the DA from Weld County?  Brand him as a Whack Job who wants to take their Social Security away before he can tap dance away from his own extremist statements.

  3. Very thoughtful (in the “you think before you write” sense). I love the insights of people who pay attention from “what the voters want” point of view, whether I agree with them or not. Thank you.

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