By Keegan Gibson, Managing Editor
The Democratic field for Attorney General is set (for now), and all three candidates have debuted their introductory web videos. PoliticsPA talked with a few seasoned statewide campaigners and media consultants to see how well the three took advantage of the opportunity.
The candidates are Kathleen Kane, former prosecutor of the Lackawanna County District Attorney’s office; Dan McCaffery, a former assistant District Attorney in Philadelphia; and Patrick Murphy, a former congressman from Bucks County.
One Democratic media consultant we spoke with asked not to be named, but he’s been around the block and back again in Pennsylvania campaigns. Seasoned Republican strategist and Quantum Communications CEO Charlie Gerow gives us the general election perspective. The bottom line is a verdict from all of the seven operatives we spoke to.
“Who is Kathleen Kane?” produced by The Campaign Group. 498 views.
Democratic media consultant: “A woman running for Attorney General is hard to do and this video is clearly looking to make her look like a tough as nails prosecutor to fight stereotyping. It succeeds in doing that. It also comes pretty close to going too far and making her look like a jerk. These videos are about introducing candidates to hardcore Dems, not average general election voters. These folks don’t know Kane yet so it is important to walk the line and also show her Democratic credentials and make her likable before going whole bore towards a law and order general election message approach. Overall, not bad. Achieves their basic ‘make her tough’ goal.”
Gerow: “Her ad is much stronger in the closing segments than at the beginning. She doesn’t read well off the teleprompter and she doesn’t seem to find her voice until the closing portions. She is much more conversational—and therefore better—at the end. Her ad really picks up steam in the sequence beginning with the house she was born it. Her ad has great voice over talent and a decent music bed.”
Bottom line: Based solely on the video, we feel like we know Kane best of the three. Historically, the AG’s race is a boys club – no woman has been elected to the office since it first went for a vote in 1980. The ad does a good job balancing the pros and cons of the gender perceptions she will face – she looks personable but also tough. That said, Kane will need a bit of polish and practice before her next time on camera.
“Dan McCaffery for Attorney General,” produced by Campaign Manager Josh Morrow. 707 views.
Democratic media consultant: “His video is well-produced and touches upon a popular theme for Democratic primary voters. Of all the videos, it is the most likely to keep the attention of viewers for the whole piece. It goes a little over the top visually with the hand brushing the wood. When you go over the top, it can sometimes erode message credibility as looking too Hollywood. But its biggest mistake is that it does little to introduce him from a personal side or make him likable. This would be less important for a general election, but for a smaller Democratic primary where he needs to battle some in the trenches, likability matters. I would be surprised if a Democratic media consultant did this. He needs a Democratic media consultant, not a slick production company, to better understand political nuance. The only people watching this video are hardcore Dems and they demand more than a just a tough guy message.
Gerow: “His ad has great production values. However, it is not a good INTRO piece. It is very slow getting up and we don’t even know who it’s about until a minute and a half into the ad. The candidates name is only mentioned twice in the entire piece and it is not strong on his resume. Connecting with the candidate through third party stories is an effective technique, but less so in the intro phase.”
Bottom line: It was the most captivating. The ad does a better job than any at telling a story that will resonate with Democrats: big, bad businesses are out to get the little guy, and voters need someone who will fight for them. It’s a message that works, and speaks most directly to the question of what the AG can do for regular people. However, it doesn’t quite seal the deal and explain why McCaffery is that guy.
“Meet Patrick Murphy,” produced by SKDKnickerbocker. 1,401 views.
Democratic media consultant: “The biggest problem with this video, that Kane’s also shares to a somewhat lesser degree, is that it is so generic and boring that few online viewers will watch the entire video because it does not hold their interest. There is nothing compelling about it. It’s a typical laundry list with shots that are so staged they erode some message credibility. The video gets out the main message points that they wanted to do, but if nobody is watches the video, what’s the point?”
Gerow: “Best pacing of the three ads. It ties his story together well and the graphics help the flow of the ad. Attorney General contests have historically been ‘resume races’ and his ad projects a strong resume (although I am personally very skeptical of some of the claims).”
Bottom line: This is the most professional campaign video of the three, which matches Murphy’s background as the most seasoned campaigner in the race. It most neatly fits the category of introduction and zips through his resume. But it’s also slick, boilerplate political fare, and is less likely to stick out in viewers’ memories.
So there you have it, the strengths and weaknesses of all three adds. We’ll be sure to update this story if Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala, who is rumored to be considering a run, decides to get in.
State Senator John Rafferty (R-Montgomery) is in the hunt for the Republican nomination, and Cumberland County DA Dave Freed is also likely to join. Current AG Linda Kelly was appointed to complete Governor Tom Corbett’s second term, and has ruled out a run for a full term.
Finally, from the loose ends department, here are the results of the online poll PoliticsPA conducted of the race in September:
Total votes: 741
Patrick Murphy: 488
Kathleen Kane: 170
Dan McCaffery: 83