Headline catch you by surprise? Ok, not quite–Mitt Romney has launched a $760,000 advertising campaign, to remind Massachusetts voters of what he has done for them, amidst (confirmed) speculation that Romney will seek the Republican Nomination in 2008. I can say, that in Maine, I have heard the radio portion of the ads, on WBZ, which reaches thirty-eight states, and Canada, as well as worldwide, via streaming internet broadcast. Take a look at this article from today’s Boston Globe.
Romney’s campaign flurry costs $760,000
Ads, insert reach Mass., N.H. voters
By Frank Phillips, Globe Staff July 9, 2005
Governor Mitt Romney’s campaign has spent more than $760,000 the last three months on a blizzard of radio ads and a glossy newspaper insert to reach a Massachusetts audience that increasingly sees his national aspirations competing with his work as governor.
The media campaign, unprecedented for a Massachusetts governor in a nonelection year, also serves the purpose of promoting Romney to voters in southern New Hampshire, who could be key if Romney chooses to run for president in 2008.
Campaign finance records show that for the first six months of 2005 the Romney Committee spent more than $1.5 million, more than he spent all of last year. Those expenditures included $615,000 for the radio media buys; $37,500 for polling; and $146,000 to produce and distribute via delivery in The Boston Globe a 24-page pamphlet touting his record. The 60-second radio ads, which aired on several stations including WBZ-1030, WRKO 680-AM, and 96.9 FM Talk, detailed Romney’s position on major policy issues including healthcare, the death penalty, and stem cell research.
Some analysts say Romney’s strategy, while on the surface appearing to promote a reelection campaign for governor, neatly fits into a strategy for creating a foundation for a potential presidential campaign. They say he needs to bolster his position with Massachusetts voters and blunt the criticism that he is disengaged and not popular, an image that could hurt his presidential campaign. But the ads and the pamphlet are also reaching a key voting bloc that can determine the outcome of the first-in-the-nation presidential primary in 2008: New Hampshire residents.
”If Romney is advertising in Massachusetts, all of that leaches over,” said Charlie Arlinghaus, president of the Josiah Bartlett Center, a conservative Granite State think tank, and former executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party. ”It is just natural. Advertising in the Boston media is an important part of any political campaign in New Hampshire.”
Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney’s director of communications, said the ads are directed only at Massachusetts residents. ”I think you’re reading too much into it,” he said. ”Whether it’s through radio ads or a progress report, the governor looks for direct and effective ways to communicate with the people of Massachusetts, and the media he buys is located in Massachusetts.”
Because the ads were placed only on Bay State radio stations, the expenditures appear to be allowable under campaign state finance laws.
The records also show that Romney’s campaign spent about $35,000 on travel and car rentals, and $29,000 on lodging, most of it in states where he made political speeches earlier this year. His campaign also billed about $30,000 for an event at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, D.C., where Massachusetts Republicans gathered for an inauguration party in January.
Andrew E. Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, which conducts polls for the Globe, compared Romney’s radio ads with a tactic used by US Senator John F. Kerry in 2002. Running unopposed for reelection, Kerry flooded the Boston airwaves with ads that reached New Hampshire voters. Smith said that voters in the heavily populated southern counties get a large proportion of their news from Boston television and the Globe.
”I see Romney up here on television; I see him in the newspapers, and I hear him on the radio,” Smith said. ”It’s a twofer, with no downside. He is in the midst of an ostensible gubernatorial race, but at the same time he is hitting New Hampshire voters.”
Romney, after numerous trips to key GOP presidential states, acknowledged last month that he is testing the presidential waters. He has said he will decide by early fall whether he will seek reelection in next year’s gubernatorial race. Most Romney insiders agree that if he decides to seek the presidency, he will not run for a second gubernatorial term.
Romney’s political standing with Massachusetts voters seems to have suffered as his interest in the presidential race has become more pronounced. In a University of Massachusetts poll taken early last month, only 37 percent of those surveyed said Romney deserved reelection, while 54 percent said it was time for a change; a UMass poll in January indicated that 43 percent said he deserved to be reelected. In a matchup against potential Democratic opponents, the recent poll indicated that the governor trailed Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly by eight percentage points and led Deval Patrick by five percentage points.
A March Boston Globe poll indicated that 39 percent of those surveyed said Romney was fully committed to being governor, while 44 percent said they believed he was spending too much time campaigning for president. Only 28 percent said he should seek the presidency. Forty-eight percent said he would not make a good president if elected, and 33 percent said he would.
Still, unlike most political figures who draw such responses in polls, Romney remains personally in good standing among voters, according to the UMass survey, with 55 percent rating him favorably.
Raising those poll numbers is important for Romney if he wishes to avoid the charges that he is abandoning the governor’s office because he cannot get reelected, a theme that would not play well in a national campaign.
Jeffrey Berry, professor of political science at Tufts University, said Romney and his strategists know that the New Hampshire primary, which follows the Iowa caucuses, is critical for a New England contender. ”New Hampshire will be seen as his launching pad,” he said. ”I think he will see Iowa as less receptive. I am sure he is envisioning setting up a political fortress in New Hampshire to help put him on the cover of Time and Newsweek the day after the primary. But, as others have seen, it is no sure thing.”
I can tell you that the advertisements have had an effect. As Liberal as I am, I can’t honestly say that I wouldn’t automatically disregard Romney, should he win the Nomination. I can tell you that as of now, since I will be living in NH, I intend to vote Democratically in the New Hampshire Primary, and in the 2008 General Election. But, I can tell you, that whoever the nominees are (with the exception of Bill Frist or Dick Lugar), I would most likely give each candidate fair consideration.