Saturday, September 04, 2010

Treasurer Buzzes and Whispers

Here in Massachusetts, we have great down-ballot races, including the hyper-important treasurer slot. The Steves, Dem Grossman and Murphy, head to next week's deciding primary and have just released TV and net ads. One's annoying and the other set oddly impersonal for a personable candidate.

Below are Murphy's annoying spot and Grossman's soft-sell.

Maybe looking askance at two sincere efforts speaks ill of me, but as The Tick famously responded to the query, "Where the is that jerk who calls himself The Tick?", "I am that jerk."

Republican nominee Karyn Polito has the luxury of watching the men piddle away their funds. She faces no primary opposition.

Murphy seems oddly proud of starting his ad campaign 24 hours before Grossman. He tweeted that several times. Perhaps that's defensive, as his campaign website required a change of developers and was a couple of months late out of the gate.

That Steve's effort is certainly memorable, possibly negatively so. It flashes three big, almost meaningless, out-of-contest factoids one after another. It's the $71 billion in state debt, the per-capital allotment, and the $2 billion MA borrows annually. Each gets the red NO circle and slash with a super-annoying buzz. The coda is Steve standing stiffly saying that when he's treasurer, all this will stop. He ends with, "I'm not afraid to say no."

Note to Murphy: Don't leave your target voters with ringing ears.

Of course, all states float bonds and do other borrowing and while on paper you could assign various debt per citizen. Ergo?

Then more to the point, the treasurer has duties and powers, but usurping the decisions of the governor and legislator are not among them. Who here believes this Steve could arrive and clear the debt used for cash flow?

For Grossman, the oddity is not the content but the presentation. First, he's a ghost. This Steve comes across in person and at stump speeches as smart, sincere and competent — the grown Eagle Scout he is.

Both this Respect vid and the Restore one on his website seem overly humble. A voice-over (not Steve) speaks of him in the third person. One vid speaks of his generosity and compassion in keeping an employee with cancer on at full pay during treatment. The other talks about what a savvy business guy he was in expanding the family company (with the implication that he can do the same for a certain New England commonwealth).

The punchlines are more believable than Murphy's. Grossman will put the state checkbook online and in two related policies, provide transparency and require full disclosure of operations. Those are important and things a treasurer can do.

However, his real campaign is that he would use the billions under the treasurer's purview to lend to MA businesses, growing jobs and companies, and speeding us out of this recession. Likewise, Murphy has said repeatedly that he'd do a timid version of that and help small businesses with cash problems. Neither has ads that get to this real substance.

Moreover for Grossman's, he is certainly his own best advocate. Yet, his pair of ads leave him a silent, black-and-white wisp. Instead of where's the beef, it's where's the Steve?

Certainly in the initial salvo, Grossman wins. Then again, he is a professional communicator. How odd though that his lackeys apparently didn't have the nerve to say, "You need to speak to the voters in these." He does need to.

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