There is often an inverse relationship between the effectiveness and outrageousness of a campaign ad. When a candidate levels provocative charges, it grabs attention and earns additional airtime. But that doesn't necessarily make it politically useful. To much publicity, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) attacked then Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) as a celebrity pol with questionable connections to domestic terrorists. The voter dials weren't moved by those charges. Sometimes, a simple message is better.
On Wednesday, Senate candidate Robin Carnahan (D-MO) released the second ad in her campaign against Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO). The message is pretty direct: the wildly unpopular TARP bailout was Blunt's bill. And if there is any question as to whether Blunt is the quintessential insider, there is footage of him appearing on a Sunday show, being described by a gray beard of the journalism world (CBS's Bob Schieffer) as the guy who "carried the water for the Bush administration."
The spot, airing statewide, is somber and straightforward. It seems likely to be effective as well. Carnahan's opposition to TARP has put her at odds with many of the national figures in the Democratic Party. But it's been a cudgel with which she's bloodied Blunt. Whether it gets much play beyond the Missouri press remains to be seen. But minutes before the campaign formally released the spot, a top party operative emailed it to the Huffington Post.
"I love this ad," the operative said. "I think it may be the best of the cycle."
UPDATE: A Blunt supporter points out that Carnahan, too, can be tied to TARP. Blunt has been doing so with ads of his own. As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported late last week:
On Friday, the Blunt campaign released what it is pleased to call "The Santa Fe Tapes" -- audio of Ms. Carnahan's one-word response to a donor at a New Mexico fundraiser who suggested that the 2008 financial bailout bill had been necessary to forestall greater problems.
"Absolutely," Ms. Carnahan said. Horrors.