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Brown Doing His Own Dirty Work: Stays on the Offensive

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


As Republican Senator Scott Brown launched another attack ad at Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren on Monday, some observers said it seemed clear that the candidates were willing to go negative without the help of third-party groups in the highly-contested Massachusetts Senate race.

The Brown camp roleld out its latest 30-second television spot, titled "Who Knows?", featuring a medley of television reports discussing Warren's claims of Native American heritage.

The ad ends with a reporter asking Warren if any further revelations about her wil be forthcoming, to which the candidate replies, "I don't think so, but who knows?"

Warren's campaign responded with an ad of its own where the Democrat relates her family history and her Native American ties as it was told to her in stories as a child. Warren goes on to state, "Let me clear, I never asked for, never got any benefit because of my heritage."

Good Signs for People's Pledge

Red Mass Group's Rob Eno lauded Brown's ad for tackling the topic of Warren's heritage, which has been present below the surface for the past several months of the campaign.

"I think it continues to show that she's not being truthful with who she is," Eno said. "It's a truthful ad."

The conservative pundit also said the more aggressive ad was a good sign that the candidates are willing to fire the hard shots themselves and that the People's Pledge will hold.

"I think it's pretty strong evidence that there's not going to be any outside spending."

Under the "People's Pledge," Brown and Warren have agreed to penalize themselves if third-party groups run ads attacking their opponents.

Robert Boatright, an associate professor of Political Science at Clark University, had previously raised the question of whether or not the candidates' deal on outside television ad spending would hold for the duration of the contest.

But with most of the available airtime between now and November 6 already bought up, Boatright said the deal may make it through Election Day in one piece.

He did note, however, that the Crossroads SuperPAC has purchased a sizable chunk of Massachusetts television time to air presidential ads targeted at New Hampshire's voters.

"So they could still run some ads but I wouldn't count on it."

The Risks of Going Negative

UMass-Lowell Political Science professor Dennis "DJ" Deeb did not see any benefit accruing to either Brown or Warren under the pledge. If both candidates turn off voters with their negative attacks, they run the risk of alienating voters who may blank the Senate portion of their ballots this November.

"I think they have kind of backed themselves into a corner."

Deeb said Brown's campaign mailings, which play up the Republican Senator as an independent voice and highlight his support from Democrats across the state, are more effective at appealing to the independent and undecided voters Brown will need to sway this fall.

The campaign's most recent "On the Road with Scott Brown" ad featured the Senator sitting down with a single mother and talking about the difficulties she has faced in the current struggling economy, a spot Deeb found to be particularly effective by linking a personal appeal with a top campaign issue.

"I think that does more to boost his own character."

Brown may be facing a difficult balancing act as he tries to maintain his positive image while simultaneously going on the attack.

"I would caution him against running ads like that," Deeb said. "I think he's treading dangerous ground."

Other observers were less optimistic in their forecast for the Bay State Senate race.

"It is clear that negative attacks beget negative attacks," said Morgan Marietta, a professor Political Science at UMass-Lowell.

"Brown has the negative attack advantage, but clear or subtle, the attacks will continue."


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