If you're a Madisonian sick of seeing ads for races you can't vote in (Clark v. Olsen comes to mind), just be glad you don't live in Appleton. When I was there last weekend every other TV spot was an ad for one of the three races included in the Fox Valley media market (Cowles, Hopper, Olsen). Here's something I noticed about the ads that is in keeping with the theme of Democrats abandoning the mission in their messaging: Scott Walker is often nowhere to be seen.
"This election should be a referendum on Scott Walker's policies," said John Nichols, when I talked to him last month about Democratic messaging. Instead, the ads we are seeing now reflect the voice of political professionals who have been called in to win the races with the usual bag of accusations: Sex scandals, tax dodging and -- worst of all -- providing the people of China with jobs.
To be fair, the ads also invoke more substantive policy as well, such as cuts to education and taxes on the middle class. However, it is curious that those attacks include little mention of the chief villain himself. Instead the ads tend to portray the targeted senator as the lead architect of a variety of Walker policies, or even more amusingly, Paul Ryan policies.
Ads run by both Fred Clark (watch) and the We Are Wisconsin PAC (watch) accuse GOP state senators of seeking to end Medicare. Not BadgerCare, which state Republicans are indeed slashing, but Medicare, the federal program.
I think the most effective ads are the ones that attach the Republican senators to Walker, as well as the ones that accuse the senators of abandoning their moderate pasts. This is not only a powerful emotional appeal to voters who are nostalgic for more peaceful state politics, but it is an accurate one: All of the GOP senators (with the exception of Hopper) used to be much more moderate. Kapanke, in fact, was the lead sponsor of legislation to extend collective bargaining rights to UW faculty and academic staff way back in...2009. "He said it was a basic issue of fairness," recounts AFT-Wisconsin political director Scott Spector.
What's the proof that going after Walker is the way to go? Because as absent as he is from Dem campaign ads, he ain't anywhere to be seen in Republican ones. No state senator wants to touch him with a 50 ft pole, instead they are emphasizing their independence and local roots.
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