Friday, October 1, 2010

New Ehrlich Attack Ad Debuts

Bob Ehrlich's second attack ad of the election cycle, "Stalled," was unveiled today.

The ad seeks to exploit the O'Malley Administration's poor handling of the unintentional publication of an internal report providing a sanguine assessment of job losses in Maryland in July. Emails produced as a result of a Public Information Act request reveal a wild, behind-the-scenes scramble by O'Malley Administration officials to pull and bury the report. This whole episode reeks of confusion and deception - not to mention rank amateurism - and the Ehrlich campaign was right to attack.

So, while I generally give the ad high marks, I have a few questions:

1) Will voters regard the episode as a cover up, or a screw up? In the latter instance, then I don't see it causing O'Malley any lasting damage. For me at least, the emails convey ineptness rather than conspiratorial intent. Perhaps that is because I worked in the State House, and witnessed the dynamics of how the pressures of a full-fledged political crisis - in my case, the hiring and firings scandal involving Joe Steffen - can stampede loyal, competent aides towards a rush to making bad decisions. If there was something sinister here, I think the O'Malley Administration is smart enough to have not communicated it via email.

2) Will people view the ad as appropriately opportunistic or simply reactive? If the former, then I still think it is effective. If the latter, then the Ehrlich campaign runs the risk of being perceived as relying on attack ads culled straight from the headlines because it has run out of forward-looking ideas. This year, people want to hear candidates' specific ideas for growing the economy and attracting jobs.  In such a climate, overreliance on negative ads may backfire - as may be the case with Kevin Kamenetz, Democratic nominee for   Baltimore County Executive. Ehrlich's people could have made the ad stronger by mentioning three specific ideas to unstall Maryland's economy.

To win, Ehrlich's campaign has to convince voters that O'Malley has no plan for growing the economy and attracting new jobs to Maryland - but Bob Ehrlich does.  This ad misses an opportunity to pivot from the recent jobs report snafu towards that larger, more compelling point.


  1. I'm glad you wrote about this. I saw the ad during the Ravens game and had no idea what it was all about. You are absolutely right about the failure to tie the incident to O'Malley's (presumed) issues with the economy. Not an effective ad.

  2. I enjoy this blog, it gives an informed insight into this race. The Ehrlich campaign seems to be in crisis. The Rasmussan Poll, the Post Poll both have O'Malley at or above 50%, a bad sign for any campaign. A terminal sign for a candidate who is as well known as Ehrlich. These ads soften the fundraising efforts as it undermines confidence in Ehrlich.

    Donors give to winners, O'Malley has certainly seen a surge this past week. Without money, Ehrlich is in the ring fighting with one hand-he can go up in Baltimore but is getting blitzed in DC metro area since he can not afford a sustained attack.

    Furthermore, the O'Malley ads are very good. Not that Ehrlich's are terrible, they just are not compelling. The multi-level messages that come in each O'Malley ad work like a right hook to the body followed by a straight left to the head. For instance, the Fee is not a tax ad shows Ehrlich raised taxes as Governor and exposes is lack of integrity by his attempt to sophomorically disguise them as fees.

    As the black vote is important, I imagine the O'Malley campaign will start to expose Ehrlich's record regarding this community, which is not good. A quick hit recapping Ehrlich's effort to ship in homeless men from Philly to work in black areas handing out phony ballots combined with his promise to reduce funding to Baltimore and PG schools seems like a natural, devastating ad. It appears the campaign is sorely missing the talents of you and Steffan.

    Keep the posts coming.