U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson has gone negative.
Over the weekend a new TV ad sponsored by Utah’s only Democratic congressman has come out criticizing his GOP challenger, Mia Love.
As is the case with well-designed negative ads, Matheson’s voice takes credit for the ad at the front of the ad – this allows for the legal requirement to be made before the tough talk is heard.
The ad criticizes Love for saying – and we hear her own words in a tape recording – that she favors “privatizing” Social Security by allowing folks to invest their own retirement funds as they wish.
The ad ends with a male announcer saying: “That’s Mia Love. Not ready for the job. Not good for Utah.”
Since his first election in 2000, I can’t remember Matheson – who has high job approval ratings with voters who also have a good opinion of him – running a negative ad against an opponent. But then maybe my memory isn’t so good on this issue.
In any case, we’ve certainly seen a number of negative ads against both Matheson and Love this election season paid for by independent groups.
There is a new U.S. Chamber of Commerce TV ad running in favor of Matheson now on the airwaves, as well.
There have been, and are now, tougher anti-Love TV ads running. But those are paid for by anti-Love, pro-Matheson independent groups, not the candidate himself.
One ad, sponsored by a group with “patriot” in its name, has a shot of Love looking smug while pictures of families crash to the ground – saying her policies would hurt Utah and American families.
Meanwhile, anti-Matheson ads have the congressman in single frame photos showing Matheson looking nothing short of weird, even demented.
I’ve always wondered where these groups get such unflattering pictures.
It recalls to mind former GOP Rep. Merrill Cook’s second election, when challenger Lilly Eskelsen’s campaign ran still photo’s of Cook having – what later was called – a really bad hair day.
Cook was known to sometimes fly off the handle, and say or do odd things.
Eskelsen, who up until those ads was known as a kind, reasonable public education teacher candidate, took a chance with those TV ads that showed Cook in bizarre facial expressions. And it failed.
The Democrat was labeled as a harsh challenger. And her 1998 campaign never recovered. Cook won a second term.
Cook did falter two years later, and lost his GOP primary.
Matheson filled the vacuum, and won the 2nd District in 2000 for the first time.
The three debates between Matheson and Love have already been held this year. So, unlike the presidential race which tightened after President Barack Obama did poorly against Mitt Romney, Matheson won’t have another chance for a face-to-face with Love and the opportunity to make some points in a televised joint appearance.
It is up to campaigning and electronic ads for Matheson to close the gap.
His new TV spot is his first “comparative” attempt at knocking Love down.
With four weeks of campaigning left, and with absentee and early voting to start soon, Matheson clearly believes he has to take out after Love now – and through the rest of the election month – or race forced retirement from the U.S. House.