I think, and I’m not alone nationally in saying so, that the Strickland-Brown campaign has amazingly run a sharp and effective campaign in this political environment.
It took not more than a single brain cell to figure out the economy would place a major component of this election. What the Strickland campaign has smartly figured out is how to turn the economy as a negative against Kasich with focusing on his slavish devotion to Wall $treet greed and outsourcing. That has been no easy task.
So effective was this campaign was that the Ohio GOP and the RGA even attempted to muddy the waters of this attack by, incredulously, attacking Strickland on this issues with laughable results.
Anyone watching the ads sees the race as largely a debate about outsourcing and free trade. That’s about as favorable ground to frame the economy in Ohio that Strickland could find in this environment. This has been capped off with Friday’s ad highlighting Kasich’s personal involvement in supporting sending 300 Ohio manufacturing jobs to China and Mexico.
Now is the time to go in for the kill.
Last week was a terrible week for the Kasich campaign. Kasich unveiled the second proposal of his campaign, and it was largely a plagiarized copy of Ted Strickland’s regulatory reform. This was a perfect opportunity to introduce people to one of the largely unknown aspects of Strickland’s record as Governor.
Which gets to my largest criticism of the Strickland campaign. Paid media has a disproportionate impact in how people view a campaign. Television ads shape how people view races more so than press conferences, “earned media,” press releases, and public speeches (combined.) Despite attacking Gov. Strickland in every venue but paid media, Kasich has managed to spin some into viewing him as running a “positive” campaign and that Strickland has largely ran a negative campaign. The former is not true, but the latter is.
Again, not that I blame the Strickland campaign. Kasich was largely unknown and introducing Kasich to voters on their terms made sense. But now with every attack, Kasich’s response has been that the Governor has nothing positive to say about his own record… a negative attack disguised as an observation. It’s clever spin. And it’s starting to stick.
If Governor Strickland is going to continue to be our Governor, he needs to run a positive ad about his record. He has to show Ohioans that the “good things” that Kasich is proposing as an economic solution: like cutting taxes, regulatory reform, and smaller government is things that Ted Strickland has already done. The crazy stuff that Kasich has proposed, like privatizing economic development (which, I guess, does develop the market for private economic development consultants more) and a repeal of our income taxes with no plan to pay for them. Talking about your record and comparing it on such terms does not make this a “referendum” election. A “choice” election strategy requires that you give voters a reason to vote “for” you as well as a reason to vote “against” your opponent. Instead, we have two candidates running a referendum against the other.
Joe Hallett of the Dispatch wrote on Sunday:
In fact, it is time for Strickland to stick an oar in the water and offer Ohioans a vision – even one single initiative – of his plans for a second term. Instead, all we’ve received from Strickland is negativity: campaign speeches smearing Kasich, one attack ad after another.
I disagree with the characterization that Kasich has been smeared, but Hallett’s larger point: a negative campaign softens up support for the other guy, but the second side of the coin is that you give those wavering voters a reason to vote for you to close the deal.
No campaign has ever won an election simply running against an opponent who has not under an indictment or public scandal involving bribery or sex and won.
Ted Strickland can win if he can look voters in the eye and show them exactly what he’s done as Governor. I’ve yet to meet a voter who didn’t at least pause when I told them about Strickland’s record. It’s not enough to have it on your campaign website. In this environment, he needs to get it on people’s television screens. Ted can win with an ad that acknowledges the problems we’re all facing in this economy and talk about what he’s been doing about it (not talking about it doesn’t remove it as an issue. Instead, it feeds Kasich’s entirely false narrative that Strickland hasn’t done anything effectively regarding the economy.)
I’ve yet to have a single conversation about Ted’s record that didn’t, at least, give even the most loyal of Republicans some pause. In fact, the reaction I get is disbelieve because they can’t believe that a politician with this record wouldn’t mention it more. The reality is that Ohio’s media has done a piss-poor job covering Strickland’s record. And if the Governor’s office was going to effectively communicate Strickland’s records, well, we wouldn’t be in this situation. The reality is that people know as little about Strickland’s record as they do about Kasich at all. So little that most don’t realize, and Kasich is cynically praying on, that much of what Kasich has said are things that Strickland has already done, just like regulatory reform.
There’s time to win this thing, but we have to cover both sides of the equation. We’ve got Kasich against the rope… now hit him with your record, Ted.