Ads don’t always tell the entire story, but in the battle to replace retiring Rep. Jim Ramstad, R-Minn., DFLer Ashwin Madia has more momentum in the ad war than Republican Erik Paulsen.
The Third District is on the radar of national Democrats because the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and Patriot Majority Midwest have begun running ads taking on Paulsen in an aggressive way.
With those two groups attacking Paulsen, Madia is better positioned to keep running positive ads, and is at least two weeks ahead of Paulsen in running his own ads. Paulsen’s first ad is a profile piece in which his daughters introduce him and imply that he is cheap (frugal is one way to look at it). The ad is reminiscent of Mark Kennedy’s family ads from two years ago that didn’t seem to work.
On paper, and in debates, Paulsen and Madia are in a dead heat. Paulsen suffers from being too Minnesotan, while Madia is a more gifted presenter who is clearly running as a moderate. Madia may suffer from being too slick.
There are five ads running on the air. Four are for Madia, and only one is for Paulsen. In just one sitting this week, all but one of the ads appeared on one broadcast show (not cable, but broadcast), leaving one to feel as though Paulsen is beginning to play from behind.
Here is a take on all the ads in the race:
Madia bio ad
While this ad isn’t brilliant, in a year when voters are challenged to not tune out every ad, it is a creative “bio” ad that tells Madia’s story in a new style for political advertising. Madia is shown running in a Marines sweatshirt, which, of course, is extremely intentional to build his profile as a vet.
Madia change ad
A little more creative and trendy, this ad is a subtle but effective way to be “hip” and be the candidate of change. The ad, which follows Madia’s image from screen to screen, is an issue ad focused on education, the war, the economy and the deficit.
Patriot Majority Midwest
Produced by a group that is clearly focused on raising issues in a more stealth-like manner, this ad focuses on veterans and children’s issues. Hard hitting but conventional, the ad pulls votes from Paulsen’s legislative career and highlights them against a backdrop of troops and children.
No surprise here. The ad is confirmation that national Democrats see this race as a real chance to pick up a seat. The DCCC ad uses votes from Paulsen’s legislative career and contrasts them with a vote for a golf course. The vote is presumptively for the course at the National Sports Center in Blaine, and while out of context, it is a very good use of a vote that Paulsen likely thought nothing of.
Paulsen bio ad
A solid first ad contrasting Paulsen, a husband and father, to Madia, who is single. This ad is a cute introduction of Paulsen, but is perhaps a little light considering that Madia is carrying his bio himself while Paulsen is relying on his daughter to do it. The ad also has a clear partner shot with retiring Rep. Ramstad. Not a bad ad, but when compared to all of the other ads on the air related to this race, Paulsen has some catching up to do.
If Madia continues with this type of momentum, Paulsen could have a tough time catching up. But the GOP in Minnesota has a lot to gain by keeping the Third District in GOP hands and providing a strong showing for Sen. Norm Coleman in that district.
GOP third party groups are expected to run ads on Paulsen’s behalf, and they will likely be hard hitting. And there’s direct mail advertising that may be hitting mailboxes. The race is far from over, but in the all important TV battle, Madia clearly has an edge.