More video and analysis follows…
Patrick’s “Moving Forward” Ad
Patrick is in the unenviable position of positioning himself as a competent manager amid a devastating economic situation that has families budgets stretched and hurting from higher taxes.
Patrick has to start with what is almost and apology. He acknowledges the problems voter’s are facing but then, highlights the things he’s done to improve the situation. He’s sticking to the claim that 60,000 new jobs have been created this year. It’s a claim that will ring hollow to voters facing job insecurity. And he makes the claim that he has protected funding for schools and health care.
It is a weak record because most voters feel the cuts to education directly. After three years of state cuts to education, municipalities across the state are struggling to minimize education cuts. Voters are seeing their property taxes increase to cover the shortfall.
Yet the state budget is bigger this year than last year. If the money didn’t go to local services, as was promised, where did it go?
A big part of the problem is that it has been eaten by programs for the politically connected. State worker pensions are a huge unfunded liability now eating 30% of the state budget. And the legislature was unable to pass “GIC” or “plan design” insurance reform which would have helped towns cope with health insurance increases for their municipal workers.
In the background Patrick is running a secondary negative campaign to paint Baker as a bad manager. His “Big Dig Baker” campaign attempts to connect Baker to financial problems with the “Big Dig” Boston artery tunnel project. And more recently Patrick and Cahill have been claiming that Baker’s success turning around Harvard/Pilgrim was due not to good management, but to massive state aid. The second attack has been deftly deflected by the Baker campaign. David Berstein explains how.
Baker’s “Grateful” Ad
The primary message is that Patrick has been giving priority in the state budget to special interests – in this case state worker’s unions. It is a complicated message and difficult to convey in a short ad. He does a good job of showing Patrick delivering support to union bosses – and raising taxes.
It is up to the viewer to put together that union support plus tax raises means that the budget increases are benefiting insiders like state worker unions over local services. It probably would have worked better if he has integrated a panel in this ad saying something like “while education funding has been slashed 3 times” and then continue to the list of benefit for state workers.
Baker’s “Patrick-Cahill” Ad
The secondary message here is that Cahill and Patrick are the same.
Conventional wisdom is that if Tim Cahill were not in the race that Baker would be leading.At every opportunity Baker ties Patrick and Cahill together. He rarely refer’s to Patrick alone – its the Patrick and Cahill adiministration – as if Cahill was the Lieutenant Governor.
Success here has been mixed. The RGA ads attacking Cahill and message that Cahill is a shill for Patrick has been working. Cahill’s numbers are way down – now at 5% – well out of the range of viability – and even to the point where if this continues, Cahill will be a non-factor by election day.
But Cahill’s collapse has not delivered the poll gains that Baker needs. Recent polls show that Cahill voters are moving to Patrick and Baker almost evenly. As elections draw closer people make rational decisions about which of the candidates who can win they would rather see. Cahill supporters were expected to “come home” to Baker. Turns out a lot of them were at heart Patrick supporters. Cahill’s collapse is a net gain for Baker – but not enough.
For a month now, Baker has been running an ad to define himself as a better alternative to Patrick. It’s not bad and lays out the case for Baker cleanly – lower taxes, more jobs, cuts to the number of state workers. The part about him managing Harvard/Pilgrim means nothing to most people.
Baker has a lot of material to work with – state worker’s pensions, cuts to local aid, patronage jobs, failure to pass GIC insurance, tax hikes. The treatment of these is weak – they come across in text and the ad moves on. We don’t find out how he is going to deal with these problems.
Baker wants to project a calm and positive image. But it is a little too carefully cultivated. He needs a little more passion. Check out Jeff Perry’s primary victory speech or his “Wake Up Washington” ad to see what motivating voters looks like.