This was a disappointing year for campaign mailers. I blame the massive tide of money that has flowed through the system, which resulted in huge amounts for the air war (radio and TV and, I suppose, the Internet) and left precious little for mailers. A small pile of the mailers sit by my chair, but compared to four years ago, they are pitiable, mewling brood, with only a few bright points among them.
Let's get the positive ones out of the way - Sullivan (2), Simpson (3), Burner (2), Holly Hill (1). Nice boiler-plate stuff. Families, education, pictures of kids. All sponsored directly by the campaigns.
Then there are the mostly-positive ones from related interest groups and larger campaigns. A nice one for Dave Reichert from the US Chamber of Commerce which doesn't say you should vote for him, but instead that you should just call him up and tell him how awesome he is (awwwwww). One from the Sierra Club with its recommendations (Gregroire, Goldmark, No on I-985, Yes of Prop 1, Simpson and Sullivan - more to be found here). And one from the Democratic Central Committee for Burner that compares "The same old guys" (Bush, Reichert, McCain) to "The New Team" (Burner and Obama - who look like the early team for Action-Four News at Five (*With Joe Biden and the Metrolink Weather)).
Then we hit the very negative ones, which reveals the tin ear which pops up once you put these things in the hands of professionals. The winner in this race to the bottom is probably the Anti-Gregoire, Pro-Rossi mailers from the It's Time For a Change, a fully-owned arm of ChangePac, which is in turn heavily funded by the BIAW, for whom Rossi does fundraising (its all like an ever-shifting jigsaw puzzle). These mailers come so close to science fiction that I am thinking of submitting them for consideration for a Hugo award. Washington State's Economy is on life support (despite Forbes telling everyone that its a great place to do business). Gregoire is an old-west bandit, killing jobs just to see them die (this just in - the jobless rate, already below the national average, dropped last month). And most importantly Change is Good! Any change! Even a Change for the Worse!. I've got about five of these, each goofier than the last. But the capper was the final, which shows a bad picture of Mr. Rossi in scary black-and-white, over-exposed, looking like a very tired vampire.
You're doing it wrong, guys. You got the file photos confused - that's the scary picture that was supposed to be run on the ANTI-Rossi mailers.
Let me jump over to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee for second place in this race to the bottom, in its negative advertising against Geoff Simpson's opponent Mark Hargrove. These are a thematically prettier, and have a common theme with poker chips, a roulette wheel, flipping a coin and dice - Don't gamble on our future. Thematically it works without being too over-the-top. But its still an attack ad - special interests, lack of experience, and accusing the candidate of negative attacks that I have neither seen nor heard.
(I did get robocall from the Hargrove campaign, recommending I check out "Mark Hargrove and Geoff Simpson" on the net to find out their positions. I did so, hoping to find a site with direct comparisons. Instead the top hits were for the righty blog Sound Politics, also complaining about these mailers. I did track down Hargrove's site, which nicely lays out his (conservative) positions and his endorsements. Not my cup of tea, but a strong site. I was surprised to see an endorsement from Dino Rossi, making it the first firm statement I've heard from that candidate. But I digress ...)
Special mention goes to the Washington State Dental Political Action Committee (yes, dentists have a PAC), for a similar-looking mailer that declares - "OLYMPIA - No Place For On The Job Training". Sadly, I must strongly disagree. While previous experience is a great thing for the state house (Pat Sullivan was Mayor of Covington), our state government is the perfect place for newcomers to the system. Before entering the legislator, Geoff Simpson (who this mailer supports) was (and remains) a firefighter. This one's a headscratcher that doesn't hold up. Sorry, Dentists. Let's go back to talking about the importance of flossing.
Ah, and lastly we have the Burning Benjamins of the Republican Governor's Association, showing hundred-dollar bills being burned with a wasteful amount of matches to symbolize Gregriore's shameful destruction of the state's surplus. Of course, Gregoire helped create that surplus, and if you want to talk about damaging deficits, there's this national one that we've been running up for eight years. But, most damaging to this mailer's cause is the fact that its a MALE hand that's doing the burning. Did no one tell the suits that made this ad back on Penn Ave in Washington DC that we have a female governor?
And that's it. Not a lot. Some blatant falsehoods, some poor uses of image, and most of these go directly into the recycling bin. All in all, I'm disappointed. I expected a lot more of our politicians (or in the case of the PACs, a lot less), and am saddened that bad mailer design is becoming a lost art.
Ah well, there is always 2012.
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