The Governor’s Race: Judging the Ads

Charlie Burr

There’s a lot more to the Governor’s race than thirty and sixty-second media spots, but for this election, radio and TV will be how most voters get information about the candidates.

An interesting debate is taking place about the role of consultants in progressive political campaigns (a major theme in the excellent new book Crashing the Gate) – and our Gubernatorial contest offers some local examples of starkly different strategies at introducing each campaign to voters.

Check out the first round of ads and judge for yourself:

Listen to Ted Kulongoski’s first radio ad here.

Watch Jim Hill’s intro spot here.

Ben Westlund in-house “Meier” spot here.

What do you think of the spots? Do you have a favorite or least favorite? If so, why?

[Author’s note: Pete Sorenson does not have any TV or radio spots online, but has a collection of web-only clips from candidate debates and forums here.]


  • LT (unverified)

    I love Westlund's Meier spot--not only the thoughtfulness and the look of it (have seen it on a dialup connection and also once on TV) but also the fact it was made inhouse. That means the talent exists in Oregon to make an excellent campaign spot without hiring a nationally famous company. What a novel idea!

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    I like the Westlund spot too. It was produced on Mike Selvaggio's labtop -- we worked together cycle before last on Charlie Ringo's campaign against Bill Witt -- and has a Deadwood/Oregon patriotism feel that really works.

    The fact that it was done for about as much money as it costs to buy pizza for a phone bank is pretty impressive too.

    The candidates have different objectives they have to accomplish in each spot, but at this stage in the race when what's really important is the "music" as much the "words", I think 'Meier' really succeeds. The Governor has an entirely different mission to accomplish as an incumbent runnning for reeelection, so it is something of an apples to oranges comparison, but still, 'Meier's' pretty good.

  • LT (unverified)

    Thanks, Charlie. I just saw the version of Hill's The Only Candidate which had the smallest file size (I'm on dialup) and that is a nice ad. But more conventional.

    Still think "Meier" for Westlund is the one most likely to capture attention.

  • MikeSelvaggio (unverified)

    Aw, shucks, Charlie.

    Thanks for the props. It's good to be able to get a message out without dropping buckets of money out of state.

    Now let's see a thread about campaign management so I can sing your rightful praises.

    [Disclaimer: My opinion -- not necessarily the official opinion of any candidate, campaign, or office.]

  • james mattiace (unverified)

    I am doing a lesson for my students on the various candidates (lumped in as part of an overall lesson on primaries) I have great spots for Westlund, Atkinson, Mannix, Saxton and Hill(even though its from 2002). Actually I have more than I need for Westlund. He has a great file of speeches, including "the speech" on his website. I am going to use Pete's kind of scratchy piece from the debate because that's all I have. I do have some taped footage of county commissioner meetings though.

    But what perplexes me is that the Governor has almost zero web presence. I have done numerous searches for kulongoski, real player, and kulongoski, wmv. I got one really bad piece from a state website, but nada else.

    Anyone know where something decent exists?

    a bit off topic, but seemed like a golden oportunity----- Also, I developed a powerpoint with all of the potential 2008 POTUS candidates for other teachers to use along with a script NOTE - the script is intended for general digestion, not policy wonks. Its just broad strokes. A teacher can run the powerpoint, give a few points about each candidate and then the kids choose a Dem and Rep Pres and VP candidate. If you are interested in the results....Obama, Clinton, Bayh, Warner and Biden lead among dems and McCain, Giuliani, Rice, Frist, and Romney lead among R's. I think its pretty impressive that students put Bayh 3rd. I think its amazing that they put Obama at the top. That's with 300 students voting.

    Anyway, if any teachers want it , its at
    mywebsite please send your results to me at [email protected] so I can keep a running tab.

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    The Governor is not doing TV yet for the primary, which is why there's nothing available online. He is doing radio right now, which is linked above. Also, here's his State of the State adress from earlier this year: 2006 Address. In fairness, he may not have a lot of videos online, but his site itself has a pretty good amount of substance to it.

    One resource for your students -- although obviously not Oregon specific -- is a collection of Presidential ads at Most of the spots -- but not all -- are from the general election campaign. Sounds like an interesting class, btw!

  • Levon (unverified)

    Welcome to politics in the mediated age; where the citizen/voter is actually a media/theatre critic.

    This follows perfectly the punditocracy on television where policy issues and actual votes serve as background noise for the more important focus which is, "how is candidate X positioning herself"?

    "Oh, but you can tell a lot about a candidate by the type of campaign (s)he runs..." Well, yes, but to a very limited extent. Voters get what they deserve when they concentrate their attention on the aesthetics and messaging of a candidate.

    Politics in the age of American Idol - where marketing and how a candidate "makes you feel" is the most important criterion.

    Sure, it's fun, like astrology is fun; but it so predominates the public political discourse that it's arguably detrimental to anything presuming to be constructive and useful political discourse.

    Gotta' go.....I think that cool new ad for Ron Saxton is on...nice tie Ron!

  • LT (unverified)

    Sure, it's fun, like astrology is fun; but it so predominates the public political discourse that it's arguably detrimental to anything presuming to be constructive and useful political discourse. Thanks, Levon. My point exactly.

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    Levon is using American Idol as shorthand for vacuous political debate, but the show -- which is more democratic and interactive for viewers -- does provide some insight into the direction of political communication.

    From Joe Trippi's The Revolution Will Not Be Televised:

    But the most important thing about American Idol is not how it's done, but what it reveals. The producers clearly thought that when they gave Americans a choice of "idols," we would choose the bland pop music dolls that dominate radio -- the crap they've been feeding us for years -- and so they overstocked the pool with Justin Timberlakes and Britney Spears. But when Americans get the choice..... they consistently surprise the producers and big band singers. They go for the gospel singers and torch singers and big band singers. The vote for fat people and geeky people and ugly people. They go for people like themselves.

    The communication that will work best in the future -- with the growth of TIVO and online campaigning -- will be spots that people want to see, not just what campaigns force down people's throats. That's one of the reasons I posted the ads above.

    I don't think there's anything wrong with supporters of a candidate/campaign having an opinion about an ad. and the DNC in 2004 have done pretty well having ad contests in which there was a genuine democratic process involved in deciding upon a spot. BTW: The winner of the DNC contest was "America's Party" by Oregonians Adam Krugman and Jefferson Smith.

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    Adam Krugman and Jefferson Smith.

    That's Adam Klugman -- who is related to someone famous, but not the famed NYT economist.

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    Yes, Adam Klugman, son of Jack Klugman. Not Krugman, as in Paul Krugman, from the NYT. My bad.

  • MN (unverified)

    Jim Hill has two additional spots on his web site, both of them focused on education funding. At the very end of those two spots there is a mention of his endorsement by the Oregon Education Association. I was under the impression that the OEA convention did not endorse any candidate for the Democratic primary, even though they came close to endorsing Sorensen. Did I miss a second round of OEA endorsements?

  • paulie (unverified)

    The editorial in today's "O" breaks down Loren Park's pro-Mannix ad and the ads run by Saxton. Tonight's debate on KGW between the Republican candidates for Governor should allow them an opportunity to further clarify/muddy their positions. Atkinson has a real chance tonight to let old timers, Kevin and Ron to go at it. Atkinson just might draw Republican votes away from both men, maybe a whiff of an upset on the Republican side is in the air?

  • moba (unverified)

    Yeah, OK, it may not be a fancy TV spot (or even an in-house one), but the Governor's radio ad had the most actual acccomplishments and the greatest focus on issues that Oregonians care about. I think that's what Oregonians want -- I know it's what I want to see.

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    I'm only seeing one radio spot on Jim's website for this year's election. Everything else looks like archived stuff from 2002.

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    I guess that would explain the OEA line. I saw the spot and was kind of scratching my head about the ending.

  • TB (unverified)

    I really hope that if Kulongoski actually pulls this one out, he spends his next term closing down the other 30% of meth labs in the state. I would think if someone had the knowledge of the locations of all the labs, as his commercial claims(shutting down 70% of them) they could shut down them all down. Just a thought.

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    The Governor's second radio spot is now up. Download here.

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