IA-Gov: Jack Hatch running "Smokey and the Branstad" ad (updated)

State Senator Jack Hatch is spotlighting Governor Terry Branstad's speeding scandal in the first television commercial of the 2014 Iowa gubernatorial campaign. I've posted the "Smokey and the Branstad" video after the jump. It's apparently running on Des Moines broadcast networks between August 11 and 14, and Hatch for Iowa is seeking donations to keep it on the air longer. To my knowledge, Cedar Rapids Gazette columnist Todd Dorman was the first to put the "Smokey and the Branstad" label on this scandal.

Most political consultants wouldn't recommend advertising in August before the election year, but this speeding scandal has generated a lot of negative chatter about Branstad, even from conservative editorial boards like the Sioux City Journal, Cedar Rapids Gazette, and Quad-City Times. A lawsuit filed late last week by fired Department of Criminal Investigation agent Larry Hedlund may keep the story in the news well into 2014.

Most candidates launch a television advertising campaign with some kind of biographical spot, but Hatch opted to introduce himself with a broadly-held opinion ("Nobody's above the law") instead. The words on screen in the middle of the ad ("Cited: Cronyism, Pressuring Public Officials") allude to conclusions of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which published a report last month on the country's worst governors.

I've also posted below State Senator Matt McCoy's endorsement of Hatch, which he announced over the weekend.

State Senator Matt McCoy posted this endorsement on Facebook on August 11.

Proud to be supporting my good friend and Senate colleague Jack Hatch for Governor. Jack is a smart, caring and passionate legislator who will make a wonderful Iowa Governor. I support Jack because of how he cares for children, mentally ill and poor people. He is also a successful developer and knows how to grow the economy.

UPDATE: Branstad's campaign asked supporters for an "emergency contribution" to "fight back" against Hatch's television ads. So $2 million cash on hand isn't enough to combat a $40,000 buy in Des Moines?

John Deeth views this as the right ad but the wrong year.

This is a general election negative spot. But you have to get to the finals first. Democratic activists will chuckle at this, because they loathe Branstad. But you could just as easily slap five seconds of Tyler Olson on the end of this ad. I see nothing in here that would make a Democratic primary voter choose Hatch over Olson.

In contrast, William Rock of Iowans for a Future that Doesn't Suck sees the wisdom of running this ad now. The whole piece is worth a read, but here's an excerpt:

This has been almost universally deemed a ridiculous move this early in the election cycle, though reviews of the ad itself have generally been good. But Senator Hatch is a businessman. Let's look at this from the perspectives of market share and return on investment.

First there was free media coverage of the fact that they had purchased the ad.

Then the ad came out, and there was free media coverage of the content of the ad.

Then there was free media coverage of the fact that Governor Branstad was asked about the ad, and gave a delightfully asinine response: "But . . . but . . . Job creation! Education! State Fair!" That almost begs to be made into a campaign ad itself. Governor Branstad = word salad on a stick!

My point is, the free media coverage of this ad will be seen by more people than the actual ad itself. Believe me, that's exactly the sort of thing campaign managers dream about.

  • funny ads

    While they can generate attention, funny ads create the danger of not being taken seriously. I worked for the Richardson campaign back in 07/08 and people loved our funny ads, but I think they contributed to our distant 4th place in the caucuses. I know that the ads were not the only reason we came in 4th but I think they made the most qualified candidate a joke candidate.  

    • Name Recognition

      I think Senator Hatch's biggest concern right now is name recognition. I think this ad accomplished the goal of getting some publicity and his name buzzing throughout the state. My mother in western Iowa (who is not particularly political) sent me a message about the ad.

      I do see your point, but I think that Senator Hatch has a long time yet to get serious on the issues. He will not be afforded that time, however, if no one knows who he is.

    • Sometimes you take what you are given

      I can't imagine drawing up a campaign plan that starts with this ad, but sometimes you throw out the plan and go with the opportunity that pops up.  I wasn't thrilled with the ad, but it does strike while the issue is hot and ties Hatch to a very recognizable issue and is having the (presumably) intended impact of getting him a lot of free media to amplify the value of his buy.

      My only gripe is that it wasn't particularly well executed (which, in fairness, is likely precisely because it was rushed to be timely and not part of a broader plan).  The "cronyism" part in particular seems sudden, out-of-context, and underdeveloped.  I think they could have made this ad do more with a little more time to execute.  And I think Hatch will have to do a more traditional intro/bio piece fairly soon or lose any impact of this ad on his recognition. But it certainly got under Branstad's skin, which is as good a measure as any of its effectiveness.  That alone raises Hatch's stature as a competitor.  


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