This weekend, Martin O’Malley started airing radio ads attacking Ehrlich as a big spender who raised taxes and fees. The ad aired twice on the Ehrlichs WBAL Saturday morning show, and is running on other radio stations.
As I pointed out in a previous post, the Democrats have been planning for a while to attack Ehrlich as a big spender. Rather than address the inaccuracies in O’Malley’s ad, I would like to comment about the ad generally.
The usual convention with incumbents or politicians with records is that their campaign ads start first by reminding people of what they have accomplished – the positive ads – and they save the attack ads against their opponent for later in the campaign – the negative ads.
O’Malley has defied convention, as he did when he challenged Ehrlich to debate the week of Ehrlich’s announcement. The question is why? Why would an incumbent governor not tout his own record of achievement(s) in his first campaign ads?
The answer is that O’Malley believes that his road to re-election lies with a different strategy. He is fearful of Ehrlich and his candidacy. He has implicitly recognized the threat posed by Ehrlich. The most recent poll showed Ehrlich closing the gap with O’Malley and pulling within three (3) percentage points—the margin of error. More telling in the poll is that Ehrlich has a forty (40) point lead with independents (unaffiliated) over the incumbent governor.
The O’Malley ad is designed to erode some of Ehrlich’s support, but it reveals O’Malley’s weakness. If you are an incumbent, you should give the voters a reason to retain you in your job, not start with focusing on your opponent’s alleged record from four or more years ago. Yet, the reality is that negative ads work, whether they are true or not, so it will be interesting to see where the next poll has the candidates.
That being said, there is a reason why “convention” exists; conventional usually works. However, recent elections around the country have shown that doing what is usual or normal may not work this year. Will O’Malley’s shift from conventional campaign advertising work?
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Maryland Democrats plan to attach Ehrlich as a big spender
Maryland Democrat Party FCC complaint against Ehrlich shows their fear of his candidacy
Dilip Paliath has a general law practice in Towson. For more information, see www.paliath.com.