The Air War: Fletcher’s ads effective; Northup’s are weaker

Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s (R) first ad in his tough primary on the road to reelection is proving effective, while challenger and former Rep. Anne Northup’s (R) ads will need improvement, according to Wilson Research Strategies Inc.

Comparing two ads — Fletcher’s first on the air this year and a spot from Northup’s failed congressional reelection bid of last year — Wilson conducted a survey analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of each camp’s early strategy.

Fletcher’s ad, which shows a young schoolboy being heckled by bullies before shifting to images of an undaunted governor achieving success, polled above average in most categories, including effectiveness, strength of message, credibility and memorability. It polled well above average in appeal.

The ad reflects the Fletcher campaign’s attempts to portray the scandals of the governor’s first term as a result of political witch hunts.

“Day after day, he took it. Didn’t flinch,” the ad says. “But he got where he was going. He held his head high. So in his own determined way, he won. That’s how it’s been for two long years for our governor.”

Wilson Strategies Chief Executive Chris Wilson said that given Fletcher’s need to “rebuild,” his first ad could prove beneficial.

“Fletcher [has], to a certain extent, got to do some damage control,” Wilson said. “It’s a good ad. It’s an effective ad.”

Northup’s ad, a testimonial from her family, is a “fascinating contrast,” Wilson said. It portrays Northup as a values-oriented candidate.

“Everything in her life she is 100 percent committed to,” Northup’s son, Kevin, declares in the spot. “Her high morals, her values, her family, God, her husband, her career.”

Wilson said he would not be surprised to see Northup continue along in the same vein as she tries to draw a contrast between her campaign and the scandals of the Fletcher administration.

But Wilson noted that the former congresswoman will need more memorable ads since she has to remind Louisville Republicans why they liked her as well as introduce herself to voters statewide.

Wilson pointed to a well-below-average rating among the political and public-affairs consultants demographic in the area of “an ad I would talk about.”

The average for the category among that group is a 5.2 rating. Northup’s ad received a 3.8.

“That’s one of the lowest we’ve ever seen,” Wilson said.

Working with The Hill for its Air War feature, Wilson Research Strategies e-mails campaign or issue ads to survey participants who view the ads and rate their effectiveness on several criteria.