The first of what will surely be an onslaught of TV campaign ads in the 26th Congressional District campaign has been launched by Republican Tony Strickland, and the campaign opens on a decidedly negative note.
The ad is a direct attack on Democrat Julia Brownley, one that portrays her as "an L:A. liberal" and the handpicked choice of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, chosen by Pelosi to help her "advance her agenda in Congress."
The ad began airing yesterday on Time-Warner cable franchises in Ventura County. It is part of $300,000 in ad buys that the Strickland campaign has scheduled through Election Day, based on public records data from Time-Warner.
It is not surprising that Strickland would strike first. After having at one time or another in his legislative career represented nearly every portion of the district, and having been engaged just four years ago in an ultra-high profile, $11 million campaign for state Senate, Strickland has much higher name ID in the district. Brownley, who has represented only about a sixth of the district and has never before been involved in a competitive general election campaign, is not particularly well known. So this gives Strickland an opportunity to attempt to define her in the minds of Ventura County voters before she has a chance to do so on her own. The definition he seeks to attach to her is obvious from the opening line of the ad: "Nancy Pelosi recruited Los Angeles liberal Julia Brownley to advance her agenda in Congress... An L.A. liberal for Ventura County? Really?"
The argument is visually presented by portraying head-and-shoulders images of Pelosi and Brownley, side by side, above the Los Angeles skyline.
The timing of the ad is interesting in that it comes as many Republicans in Washington are concerned that GOP vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan's controversial budget plan that would to partly privatize Medicare could hurt GOP congressional candidates across the board. The extent of that concern may have moved up Strickland's timetable for going on the air. It is also obvious in the content of the ad. It picks up on a line of argument used by the Romney-Ryan campaign last week that seeks to turn the Medicare issue against Democrats by focusing on the $700 billion in reduced Medicare spending growth that is part of federal health care reform. And in case anyone misses the point, Strickland closes the ad with: "I'm Tony Strickland. I'll protect Medicare. And I approved this message."
Specifically, the ad asserts Brownley seeks to hide "her plan to cut over $700 billion from Medicare to pay for Pelosi's health plan."
That assertion has been challenged by Democrats and debunked by independent analysts, including PolitiFact in the days since the Romney campaign levied it.
Brownley campaign spokesman Lenny Young seized on that portion to assert the Strickland ad is "full of flat-out lies." He noted that Strickland has said he opposes Ryan's Medicare plan because it affects those now age 54 and younger, while Strickland believes no changes should be made that affect anyone 50 or over. That is the only element he has objected to, and he told me recently he was not familiar enough with other components of the Ryan plan to address them.
Young said the Brownley campaign delivered a copy of the plan to Strickland's office today.
And so it all begins.