Monday, June 11, 2012

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: Keeping it Positive ... For Now

When I saw the news release about a new TV spot from Republican U.S. Senate nominee Heather Wilson’s campaign, my first thought was, “Here it is. It’s starting already.” My assumption was that, just like the governor’s race two years ago, attack-ad season would be starting early again.

Then I saw the ad. It’s an upbeat, positive, soft-focus biographical ad with the heart-warming message, “My family taught me to love America, but the military taught me not to take it for granted.”

I’m almost expecting her Democratic rival Martin Heinrich to come back with an ad saying he loves America too and has loved it ever since his teenage years sacking groceries.

Then I learned that Karl Rove’s super-PAC, American Crossroads — a sister organization to Crossroads GPS, on whose board Wilson once sat — was buying ad time in New Mexico in support of Wilson. Politico reported that the PAC is spending more than $250,000 in the Albuquerque and El Paso markets.

“Now, it’s coming,” I chuckled cynically. But again, here’s smiling Heather with Old Glory waving in the blue sky behind her. Nothing bad about Heinrich, just a friendly female voice praising Wilson as an “independent record of standing up to her own party.”

Wait, a minute ... since when did Karl Rove like Republicans bucking the party line?

Boy, if there’s one thing that a political junkie hates worse than negative ads, it’s positive ads.

A couple of things probably are going on with the pro-Wilson ads. Neither of them mentions her political affiliation. These obviously are targeted to independent voters and Democrats who might be on the fence.

And, as National Journal pointed out last week, “A positive ad could also help lower Wilson’s unfavorables. There’s been a lack of independent, nonautomated polling in the state, but a late April poll conducted by Democratic pollster PPP poll showed Wilson with considerably higher unfavorables than Heinrich [45 percent to his 31 percent].”

But don’t think the mudslinging isn’t going to come in this high-profile Senate race. In fact, another conservative PAC, right after the primary, launched a $100,000 ad campaign targeting Heinrich. The 30-second ad features the pensive piano music, pictures of shut-down factories, a sad-looking girl in a dress shop and Heinrich being sworn in by (gasp!) Nancy Pelosi.

In its blog post about the American Crossroads ad, Politico’s Alexander Burns noted that Heinrich has led Wilson in polls, writing, “New Mexico is a race that’s looked like more of a reach for Republicans. ... The fact that outside groups are investing there is a sign that the race isn’t a foregone conclusion.”

And pro-Heinrich PACs aren’t sitting out this race. A coalition of five national environmental organizations is about to launch a television ad campaign in this state, running ads for nearly two months starting this week. “One source pegged the cost of the flight at just over $850,000. Another suggested it could climb closer to a $1 million when all the buying is done,” Politico reported.

I haven’t seen the ads, so I can’t say for certain what tone they’ll be taking. Maybe they’ll just show Heinrich camping with his wife and kids and talk about how he loves the great outdoors and wants to protect it and working families.

But if I had to bet, I’d probably go with grainy photos of Wilson with grim smokestacks in the background and horror-movie music.

I’ll also bet that by October, not even the most jaded political junkie will be complaining about a lack of attack ads.

Here's what might be the only positive ad Karl Rove has ever made: