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Saturday, July 22

Sen: Brown (D) Counteroffensive Gains Ground

A front page headline in the Cleveland Plain Dealer today declares "Security Votes Lose Context in Senate Race." The text of the article goes on to explain at some length why the current charges by incumbent Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Cincinnati) against challenger Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon), in a TV ad that shows pictures of 9/11 and characterizes Brown's voting record as "weakening" national security, "may not be deserved" and "sorely lack context." The reporter places Brown's pre-9/11 votes for intelligence budget cuts in their correct context of a CIA that was error-prone, bloated, and still focused on the vanished threat of Soviet Union. "The whole point was that we knew there was a slush fund at the CIA, that they had a lot of money set aside," Brown is quoted as saying about the votes. "We knew they had a lot of problems at that agency, where they weren't doing their jobs, and we were sending them a message." Brown was joined in these votes by some prominent Republicans, such as Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Cincinnati). The reporter points out that the message sent by the these votes to the CIA (i.e., to improve its operations and focus on genuine threats) has been "flipped on its head" by the DeWine TV ad.

The effect of DeWine's inflammatory ad (produced by the same firm that created the notorious Swift Boat smear campaign against Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) during his presidential campaign) was initially blunted by the disclosure that the image of the burning World Trade Center had been doctored. (The ad was pulled and then resumed with a different image.) This new questioning of DeWine's underlying charges further undermines DeWine's assault.

A lot of credit goes to Brown for responding rapidly to DeWine's attack. When the Swift Boat ads appeared in the summer of 2004, the Kerry campaign hesitated for a few weeks before responding. They saw the attack as obviously scurrilous, the ad buy as relatively small (as it was, but cable news coverage spread the lies far and wide), and they didn't want to help the enemy by calling attention to their spurious claims. Many now regard this delay as the single worst mistake of Kerry's unsuccessful presidential bid.

Determined not to repeat Kerry's error, Brown responded immediately to DeWine's ad by pointing to past instances when DeWine misled voters, including making false statements regarding conviction rates of his opponent during his campaign for Greene County Prosecutor in 1977. The Ohio Democratic Party followed up with a responsive ad, calling DeWine's charges "sad" and a "smear" and countering DeWine's portrayal of their respective voting records on national security. As noted by blogger Mark Adams on the new Ohio community blog As Ohio Goes, both DeWine's portrayal of Brown's voting record and part of ODP's response have been determined to be misleading by FactCheck.org.

The initial media response to DeWine's ad was merely to repeat the thrust of his charges. Just getting the media narrative to shift from that kind of mimicry to an examination of whether DeWine's attack has any basis in fact is a significant victory for Brown in this phase of the campaign.


At 5:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While Brown's reply commercials were better than nothing (the speed at which he replied was certainly good), I think they were rather lacking.

First, they had some smooth-voiced narrator. Everybody knows to discount them. It should have been Brown himself responding to the ad.

I'd rather see a series of ads responding to each charge of DeWine's. Explain the circumstances; if it was one vote out of a series while trying to improve the bill, for pete's sake, say so! And call DeWine ignorant for not understanding the legislative process--hasn't he learned anything from his time in Washington?

And end each commercial by saying, "If DeWine will lie about something simple like this, what else is he lying to you about?"

Answer each charge directly, and head on. Otherwise, folks will wonder what Brown is hiding.

Come on! Can't the Dems do better than this?


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