Monday, September 6, 2010

The Invacare #uberfail and what's next...

Boy, did they blow that one.

If you live in Ohio, by now you've probably seen Governor Strickland's infamous Invacare ad.

In it, the wife of a former Invacare employee states Kasich is responsible for outsourcing her husband's job out of the country in order to "profit".

Based on the size and scope of the buy, as well as their staunch defense of the ad, the Strickland campaign clearly thought this ad was a silver bullet to John Kasich's campaign.

Wow, were they wrong.

Since its release, the public panning of the ad has been constant and growing.

From the Plain Dealer:
Gov. Ted Strickland did neither this region nor his candidacy any favors with his unwarranted political rant against Invacare Corp., a solid corporate citizen that has been an anchor of new-economy jobs in Northeast Ohio and that has worked to promote the state for new business investment.

What was the governor thinking?

After spending much of his term trying to build credibility as a business-friendly Democrat, Strickland has -- with one incredibly tone-deaf political ad -- threatened to undermine those efforts and to reinforce stereotypes of Ohio as a place where populism and partisanship make for a dicey investment climate.
Additionally, Crain's Cleveland Business posted their own editorial for all of Cleveland's business community to see calling the ad a "backhand slap in the face" from the "home-state governor."

The Strickland campaign's defense of the ad? The ad doesn't attack Invacare, it attacks Kasich for supporting outsourcing.

Strickland's team could not have further missed the point.

That "outsourcing" is what saved the company and enabled it to stay viable and eventually grow.

Rather than damaging Kasich, the avalanche of blowback is instead providing the Republican an opportunity to highlight his business credentials.

And with a perfectly timed new positive ad, they are taking advantage of Strickland's stumble:

So what's next?

Well, with Kasich's aggregate lead in all polls jumping to ten points, it's pretty darn clear that whatever Ted is doing isn't working:

If you're on Ted's campaign staff, those lines diverging sharply means you've really made a serious strategic error in some capacity. And with serious errors can come consequences. Will we start seeing some turnover in the Strickland campaign? It's very possible.

What else? Well, a smart campaign would recognize the tired old negative attacks are clearly not working and would begin trying what I've recommended from the beginning - focus first on improving Ted's disastrous approval numbers. Tell success stories. Or in this case, make them up.

That said, with the political environment unlikely to change in the next 57 days, Strickland's team may decide to instead continue to run a scorched earth campaign and do whatever they can to drag down Kasich.

It won't work. All the hits so far have only pushed voters towards the Republican and there is no indication the same message will resonate in any way.

All that said, it's hard to imagine Ted's poll numbers getting much worse. That means at some point there may be some sense of a rebound. The question is how the media will cover it. Will they try to push a "the Great Strickland comeback" story, or focus more on reality? The fact is, without a very serious development beyond the scope of the Governor's race or a major Kasich stumble, this race is Kasich's to win. Any Strickland rebound will either be too small or too temporary to make any substantive difference in the race.

As I've been saying since last year, this race has been and will continue to be about jobs, jobs, jobs. No matter what Strickland spouts, voters will care first and foremost about jobs.

Strickland never understood that. Kasich does.

And it will cost Ted in November.


  1. Welcome back from your honeymoon and congratulations.

    That said, all of these polls were taken before or just shortly after the Invacare ad started airing last week.

    Of course, there was a pushback. It was organized by the Kasich campaign and largely featured Kasich donors and other Republicans in the business community.

    This ad wasn't geared for earned media attention. And the reason the Kasich campaign is screaming through surrogates to "take the ad off."

    Rasmussen will have a poll out next week (they seem to be on an every other week in Ohio poll cycle.) We'll see then if this ad has or hasn't worked.

    Kasich's ahead, but his support is incredibly soft. According to PPP, one third has a favorable opinion of Kasich, another unfavorable, and yet another doesn't know enough about him. If Democrats get engaged and come home (which is easy and likely since there's little evidence that they're thinking of Kasich) Strickland will easily close the gap in the final weeks before early voting. The fact is that all the polling shows that Strickland has some low hanging fruit that if his campaign gets will be more than enough to close the gap.

    I'll admit I don't like our poll position, but I think much of your pronouncements are premature and not actually supported by the aggregate of the polling data out there.

  2. Thanks, Modern.

    Two pretty important things you're missing in your response...

    First, the Invacare attack isn't all that different from the initial attack ad back in May that stated Kasich was responsible for sending jobs overseas. Sure, some of the details are different, but to the average voter the message was the same. That ad was ineffective.

    Second, the only way you get your base enthusiastic to vote and bring them back is to improve Strickland's approval numbers. Right now he's at -12 and trending badly downwards. I don't see anything changing that can substantively improve those numbers fast enough to make any real difference in the turnout of this race.

    Remember, Silver has Kasich with a 90% chance of winning this race. Sounds about right to me.

  3. Well, I disagree. Shock, I know.

    But saying that trade votes lead to shipping jobs overseas is a rather abstract concept. The Invacare is actually direct and personal evidence that John Kasich worked to outsource jobs out of the country. It's more serious.

    Second, the first NAFTA ad did work. It just didn't run that long. However, shortly after it ran, the race did tighten.

    We both agree that Strickland needs to talk about his positives more, and that his biggest problems, at least according to the polling, is that he's underperforming within his party. However, if that is resolved (and it's not that hard of a problem) you must also agree that would substantially alter the race.

    I'd stick to the wedding champaigne for now. Strickland's campaign just went on the air for the first time in months two weeks ago.


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