Remember in January of 2010, when Martha Coakley, seeing a looming disaster in the upcoming election, ran a classic scary-voice, grainy-image attack ad against Scott Brown (complete with embarrassing misspelling of “Massachusetts” in the fine print at the end), and Brown parried it brilliantly with a response where he’s standing in his kitchen talking directly to voters? Here’s how they went, if you’d forgotten.
In light of Elizabeth Warren’s just-released ad of the boxing coach from Lowell, Brown is trying exactly the same play. The text of the two Brown ads is startlingly similar, and Brown appears even to be wearing the same sweater in both of them. Here are the two ads from this cycle.
Even the music in Brown’s two ads, up-tempo, major-key, meandering background stuff, is strikingly similar. Here’s the text of the two Brown ads:
|Brown’s response to Coakley||Brown’s response to Warren|
|I’m Scott Brown running for the United States Senate. By now, you’ve probably seen the negative ads launched by Martha Coakley and her supporters. Instead of discussing issues like health care and jobs, they decided the best way to stop me is to tear me down. But the old way of doing things won’t work anymore. Their attack ads are wrong, and go too far. I’m Scott Brown, and I approve this message because I’m running in the name of every independent-thinking voter to take on the political machine and their candidate. And with your help, I intend to win.||Have you seen Elizabeth Warren’s latest ads? Instead of talking about things that matter, like jobs, she’s being dishonest about who I am and what I stand for. Don’t be fooled by Elizabeth Warren’s negative attacks. Like a lot of you, I came from nothing. I’m on your side, fighting for the middle class. An independent voice you can count on to create a stronger economy and more jobs for all of us. I’m the same Scott Brown I’ve always been, and I approve this message because I’m nobody’s Senator but yours.|
But the problem, and the reason why Brown’s response is so ineffective this time, is simple: Warren’s ad is not an “attack” in any meaningful sense of the word. Yes, the ad discusses several votes that Brown has taken in the Senate. But that surely does not constitute an “attack.” And Warren’s ad, instead of adopting grainy-image scary-voice techniques, simply has a well-known and likable boxing coach from Lowell talking, in an entirely non-scary way, about why he thinks Warren would be a better Senator than Brown. Further – and I think this is an important difference – the Coakley ad said nothing about Coakley herself; it was pure negative attack. But the Warren ad talks more about Warren than about Brown, about how she’s a fighter, etc. So Brown’s response this time is weirdly off-key, and just seems defensive and whiny. Like Brown himself.