Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The State of the Indianapolis Mayor's Race

Events that happened just five days apart may prove to be the turning point in the Indianapolis Mayor's race.

Democratic Mayoral Candidate
Melina Kennedy
Last Thursday the Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) endorsed Democratic mayoral candidate Melina Kennedy.   GOP spinmeisters like Abdul Hakim-Shabazz attempted to dismiss the vote as irrelevant, or even a positive development for the Mayor Greg Ballard.  The reasoning is that since the FOP voted to offer legal assistance to officer David Bisard accused of killing someone while driving drunk, the organization should not be taken seriously in its endorsement.

But in fact that same FOP endorsed 19 Republicans out of 26 council candidates.  That same FOP had a history of endorsing Republican candidates for mayor, including Greg Ballard in 2007.  Police officers tend to stick together and are very politically active.  When you count in their families and friends who are influenced by those police officers, they make up a significant voting group. 

Make no mistake, Ballard's loss of the FOP's endorsement is significant, a message that those police officers do not have confidence in his leadership and especially not that of his despised public safety director Frank Straub.  In about 48 hours, the Kennedy camp had turned the FOP endorsement into a nice commercial discussing public safety.

Over the weekend, Mayor Ballard was able to bask in the attention afforded 9/11 celebrations.  But by Monday, the Mayor and his Republican allies were back inflicting wounds on themselves.  This time the issue was popular early voting, in particular establishing satellite locations on the north and south sides of the city.

The Mayor had reversed positions, now opposing early voting at satellite locations.  But Ballard was content on letting County GOP Chairman Kyle Walker and GOP appointee to the Election Board, Patrick Dietrick take the heat for the unpopular position.  But Democratic Clerk Beth White was having none of that.  She made it clear that it was the Mayor's choice, and the Mayor took the bait on the issue, announcing publicly his opposition to early voting.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard
The media coverage of the episode made Ballard look he wanted voters to be inconvenienced and to suppress turnout, highly unpopular positions for a candidate to take, especially one facing the voters in just two short months.  But that "earned media" aspect of the issue is just the first prong of the Democratic strategy.  The second is paid media.  You can bet the Kennedy folks are working on a spot addressing the Mayor's opposition to popular early voting, including his flip-flopping on the issue. 

Speaking of TV commercials, thus far the Ballard commercials appear unfocsed. They contain a dizzying array of images, occupying the screen for an average of less than one second.  During the commercials, Ballard, in his own voice, throws out sound bites on a wide assortment of issues.  The spots aren't horrible, but they are not very good either.  The lack of a coherent campaign strategy is evident in the commercials.

Kennedy's commercials are much more polished and visually appealing.  They employ a professional voice over artist as well as contain far few video cuts than the Ballard commercials.  Usually just one issue is addressed.  On the Kennedy's commercials a strategy is emerging:  spend about five seconds taking a shot at Ballard on some issue and spend the rest of the time talking about how she would handle the issue differently.

Although Republicans suggest the five second bites criticizing the Mayor constitute "negative" campaigning that is out of line, the fact is the election will be almost completely a referendum on the incumbent.  As a challenger, Kennedy has to tell voters why they shouldn't re-elect Ballard.  The fact that the Kennedy hasn't even scratched the surface on the negative stuff available to go after Ballard on suggests to me the Kennedy camp is fully confident of where they are in the polls.

What political junkies should look for is not when Kennedy goes "negative" (again she has to tell voters why they shouldn't re-elect the Mayor), but when Ballard starts attacking Kennedy.  That is a sign the Ballard campaign is concerned its lead is slipping away.


Blog Admin said...

I thought the Spencer Moore Ballard commercial was really well done. If I recall correctly, Moore is in some type of field or park, and the focus pretty much stays on him.

In contrast, Kennedy's FOP ad has a lot of images going around. Not as bad as Ballard's (and I'm always a bit iffy when I see uniformed LEOs appear in partisan political commercials) previous ads, but it wasn't the best.

I also think Abdul overestimates how much the Bisard case will affect the election. For most people, it's well out of the public's mind.

Bill said...

The fact that the Ballard TV spots are produced by an Ohio company send a message to our city that jobs are not important.

His TV spots are done in Ohio and his media is purchased from Virginia.

Thanks for the jobs Mr.Mayor.

Paul K. Ogden said...


I thnk the Spencer Moore commercial for Ballard was the best one he's had done.

I'm not sure how the Bisard case somehow discredits the FOP. That's a reach. The Bisard case itself certainly doesn't help the Mayor directly.

M Theory said...

The commercials are produced in Ohio? Really?

Just last night I had a couple beers with some Meridian Kessler activists who still informally gather at Binkley's on Monday nights.

One of the gals and her husband own a top notch video production company, are Ballard supporters, and talk him up all the time. Ballard knows them, at least by face.

They confided to me last night that because of the economy business is really down for them even though they've run a top notch production company for a few decades.

You would think that Ballard would think to give his campaign business to a very competent production house right in his own backyard...especially since they give so much of their own time to help him.

Grassroots supporters get stepped on...never a hand up.

Bill said...

Ballard uses the same Ohio firm that Pence does for all of his TV work.The media is also purchased by the company out of state.So both of these men send MILLIONS out of state.

Hard to believe that there are no video companies or media folks that can do the job.

Very sad that the media will not pick up on this.