Sensing opportunity in a traditionally Democratic state, the Republican Governors Association (RGA) has launched a nearly $2 million negative advertising blitz against Gov. Deval Patrick, a close Democratic ally of President Barack Obama.
A new television commercial that started airing last Wednesday echoed a national GOP criticism against the president, saying, “We had high hopes for Deval Patrick, but he hasn’t delivered.” It is aimed at boosting the prospects of Republican Charles Baker, a former health care executive who served as the state’s human services and budget secretaries in the 1990s.
The RGA plans to continue airing it and follow-up ads through the Nov. 2 general election, reprising a strategy it used last year to help Republican Chris Christie win in New Jersey against Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine.
Patrick’s campaign manager dismissed the effort, even though the Democratic Governors Association is similarly aiding the incumbent with anti-Baker ads.
“We believe that voters care more about the fact that Massachusetts is creating jobs faster than any other state in the nation under Gov. Patrick’s leadership than about 30-second TV ads from any outside group,” said Patrick adviser Doug Rubin. “Our campaign’s focus has been on connecting with people one-on-one throughout the state and talking with them about the work Gov. Patrick is doing to lead Massachusetts out of this recession and maintain our commitment to education, health care and job creation.”
The new ad follows a similar $2 million round of RGA advertising this summer that pulled Baker within striking distance of Patrick. Yet it deviates in that it no longer mentions independent candidate Timothy Cahill, who threatens to split the anti-Patrick vote and has been battling Baker for the votes of fiscal conservatives.
The most recent poll in the race showed Patrick leading Baker 41 percent to 34 percent, with Cahill at 14 percent and Green-Rainbow Party candidate Jill Stein at 4 percent. Six percent were undecided.
“Tim Cahill is falling further and further behind every day,” said RGA spokesman Chris Schrimpf. “This is really becoming a two-person race, so our attention is on Deval Patrick.”
He denied any “trophy-hunting” effort in trying to defeat an Obama ally. “There’s enough failures from Deval Patrick,” said Schrimpf.
He said the RGA simply believes Patrick was beatable. Republicans similarly dumped millions into Massachusetts in January after a poll showed then-state Sen. Scott Brown with a chance of beating Democrat Martha Coakley in the special election to replace the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.
“Our chairman (Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour) has said we don’t invest in races we don’t view as winnable. Charlie Baker is within the margin of error,” said Schrimpf.
There are 37 gubernatorial races across the country this fall.
Besides Massachusetts, the RGA is directly buying ads in Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Maine, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland and Vermont.
It’s also contributing directly to candidates and state parties in such states as Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Oregon.