Party? Scott Brown Doesn't Need No Stinking Party

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The general election has begun! And so has the onslaught of campaign ads. Which ones succeed? Which fail? In Ad Watch, we review them as they come out. Today: How national politics affect state races. Scott Brown forgets to mention he's Republican, Jon Tester gets tied to Obama, and Scott Walker is accused of "Republican class warfare."

The Ad: Scott Brown, "Independent"

The Issues: The Massachusetts Republican senator's character.

The Message: Scott Brown is a good guy who is beholden to no one. This is communicated with clips of Brown talking about the "American dream" and "working together," plus a clip of a 60 Minutes anchor saying he is "beholden to no one." 

Who It's For: Residents of the relatively liberal state who are skeptical most of the Republican Party. The ad is called "Independent," and it doesn't use the word "Republican."

What Everyone Else Thinks: You almost forget this is a political ad there's so much gauzy soft-focus and inspirational piano music. It's like a preview for a heartwarming sports story.

The Effect: Brown seems nice, but the story the ad tells is too generic to be interesting. The most specific thing he says is that he's been working hard to fix the economy. B

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The Ad: Progressive Change Campaign Committee, "Remember. Recall."

The Issues: The recall of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for his push for legislation to curb the power of public sector unions. The recall vote is June 5.

The Message: Remember how mad you were in February ... of last year? We want you to get that mad again.

Who It's For: The ad features interviews with regular people protesting last year and volunteering today. It makes some attempt to reach out to more conservative voters -- the first speaker says, "As a Republican my entire life, I'm appalled at what Scott Walker and the Republicans did." But it seems mostly geared towards getting liberal voters excited, because then it says "This is Republican class warfare -- an attack on the middle class. This is a battle we need to win." Who is "we," guys? 

What Everyone Else Thinks: The Wisconsin electorate is highly polarized, the Los Angeles Times' David Lauter reports. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Walker's Democratic opponent, told Lauter, "I've been saying there are only 37 undecided voters left in the state, and we're all chasing them." So it seems likely that anti-Walker viewers see the people in the ads as noble everymen, and the pro-Walker people see them as lazy people who should be working, not protesting.

The Effect: The protesters mostly middle-aged and elderly faces are very pleasing to watch, especially with the high-contrast black-and-white footage highlighting their charming wrinkles. But doesn't seem like it'll convince anyone. B-

The Ad: Denny Rehberg, "Honest"

The Issues: The congressman is trying to tie freshman Democratic Sen. Jon Tester to President Obama in the Montana race.

The Message: Tester campaigned on bringing a new tone to Washington -- honesty -- but voted for the same old Washington stuff: bailouts, his own pay raise, higher taxes. The ad says Tester voted with Obama 95 percent of the time.

Who It's For: People who might have liked Tester's message in 2006 but are sick of Obama. 

What Everyone Else Thinks: Obama isn't as unpopular in Montana as you might expect, a recent survey from Public Policy Poll found. 

The Effect: The Republican National Committee has been pushing a similar "failure to deliver" theme in a series of ads called "Broken Promises." They show clips of Obama's 2008 speeches promising to bring change and then flashing statistics that show Obama didn't deliver. The Rehberg ad could have worked a little harder to tie Obama's failure to Tester's. C

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