Campaign Ads: Dubie Goes Personal; Shumlin Focuses On Issues
09/30/10 5:50PM By Bob Kinzel  Download MP3
(Host) With less than five weeks to go before election day, Vermont's race for governor is at the halfway point.
And Democrat Peter Shumlin and Republican Brian Dubie are focused on very different messages, especially in their advertising.
VPR's Bob Kinzel has this analysis.
(Kinzel) Retired Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis has studied dozens of gubernatorial races in Vermont.
He says the two leading candidates in this year's contest have adopted strategies that highlight their strengths - and play down their perceived weaknesses.
(Davis) "What Shumlin's focus has been on for the last week to ten days has been issues where he believes that Dubie's proposals would not be good for the state...Dubie argues that there are several reasons why Peter Shumlin should not be elected governor and Dubie is trying to focus on Shumlin the individual."
(Kinzel) How does Dubie focus on Shumlin the individual? Here's part of a radio ad from the Dubie campaign.
(Dubie Ad) "Shumlin's plan would turn drug dealers and child pornographers out on the street long before their sentences were served... Far out Peter Shumlin... don't let Peter Shumlin go too far again. Paid for by Friends of Brian Dubie."
(Kinzel) However, Shumlin's plan does not call for the release of any inmates before their sentence is served. Davis says the Republican Governors Association is using the same strategy in its TV ad - attack Shumlin the person.
(RGA ad) "Can we trust anything Peter Shumlin says...Peter Shumlin can't be trusted to do the right thing."
(Kinzel) Davis says there are two reasons why the Dubie campaign has taken the approach it has.
(Davis) "One is that their polling may indicate that their positions - the Dubie campaign's positions on issues - are not where the majority of voters are on those issues. Second, it could be that Dubie's campaign manager - whose experience is primarily in Congressional races where the focus often becomes on candidate attributes - that Dubie's campaign manager Corey Bliss is taking the same sorts of tactics that are frequently used by Republican candidates in Congressional races, and bringing them into the Vermont gubernatorial race."
(Kinzel) Davis says the outcome of the race could hinge on Shumlin's ability to make Dubie's strategy a central part of the race.
(Davis) "He could argue that the tactics that are being used by the Dubie campaign are not ones that are consistent with the Vermont political tradition - that the heavy reliance on negative advertising, the use of robo calls, the use of push polls, that the combination of those tactics is not the sort of thing that we've seen in Vermont."
(Kinzel) You can hear some of that strategy in Shumlin's TV ad responding to the Dubie campaign.
(Shumlin ad) "Brian Dubie's campaign of mistruths and fear is not the Vermont way. I hope you'll ask Brian to take his untrue ads off the air and join me in a honest discussion of the issues."
(Kinzel) With strong national interest in this race, Davis says it's possible that this campaign may get even more intense in the coming weeks.
For VPR News, I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.