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Professor: New Round of Ads Offers Snapshot of Brown-Warren Race

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

 

The most recent batch of ads from Democratic hopeful Elizabeth Warren and Republican Senator Scott Brown paint a vivid picture of the state of the Massachusetts Senate race.

Brown has rolled out two new television ads: one featuring a Korean war veteran in Concord who earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for service to his country, the other an installment in his "Scott Brown from the Road" series focused on the state's struggling fishing industry.

Warren's new ad, "Still," makes women's issues on the national level its focus, including equal pay, health insurance coverage for birth control and Roe vs. Wade, which Warren warned could be one Supreme Court justice away from becoming history 40 years after the decision first made history.

Westfield State University Political Science professor Michael Walsh weighed in on the newest television efforts, giving both candidates credit for signing the People's Pledge and keeping third-party groups from barraging voters with negative ads.

Brown Staying Positive

Brown's ads take a local angle and steer clear of anything resembling an attack, a wise decision, said Walsh.

"Because the national race is so nasty, I don't think Brown really sees any upside to doing a heavy negative run."

To be successful in November, Walsh said, Brown will have to drum up and secure support from older voters, veterans and men, three groups likely to respond well to the new ads.

A good percentage of the women's vote will also be crucial to a Brown victory, but recent efforts to promote the Senator as a pro-choice Republican as well as campaign events featuring his wife Gail Huff Brown have helped bolster support among women and allowed the candidate to move the focus of his re-election campaign back to jobs and the economy.

Warren Rallying Around Social Issues

Warren has taken the opposite tact, using comments by Missouri Rep. Todd Akin as the starting point for a call to arms among women voters on social issues.

The idea that Roe vs. Wade is one Supreme Court appointment from being overturned offers voters a powerful image.

"i think that's an effective ad," Walsh said.

"The question is does it resonate beyond the people who are already voting for her?"

Walsh said he was somewhat mystified by the Warren campaign's decision to pump up the national-level social issues at this stage in the game.

"The challenge for her is she's got to localize," he said, a practice Brown is already trying to engage in with his two newest ads.

That localizing has also helped Brown distance himself from national Republicans while he has minimized his involvement with the party's national convention this week, maintaining his bipartisan and independent image.

Professor Dennis "DJ" Deeb of UMass-Lowell said the efforts by Warren to characterize her opponent as one with the Akins of the Republican party smacks of desperation.

"I think that this is a strategy that many Democratic candidates for Congress and U.S. Senate are employing throughout the country," Deeb said, "and that is to paint the Republicans with one brush and to really turn it into a national debate of Republican versus Democrat."

The Economy is Unavoidable

While the attempts by Democrats may seem desperate, Deeb said they are still a solid play.

"Given the circumstances, it's actually a smart strategy to try to shift the voter's attention away from jobs and the economy," he said.

"I'm not sure it's going to work though."

Warren may have less to worry about than some of her Democratic colleagues, since experts see President Barack Obama likely winning Massachusetts, and Warren stands to benefit more than Brown from the increased turnout the presidential race will generate.

However, for Deeb, independent and unenrolled voters may end up being the key to victory in the Bay State Senate race.

"We know that from past elections that political party affiliation is the number one indicator of how people are going to vote," he said.

"The winner is going to be who reaches out to those independent and unenrolled voters."

Heading into Labor Day, it remains unclear whether those voters will be more swayed by the national-level social message of Warren's new ad or the Massachusetts-centric narrative on display in Brown's latest offerings.

 

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