When I first read about PA State Senate candidate John Fetterman renting a plane to tow a banner making fun of his opponent Mehmet Oz’s New Jersey home, I thought that was clever. And reinforcing it with an ad featuring reality star Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi of MTV’s “Jersey Shore” jabbing at Oz for leaving his “home” in New Jersey.” Yeah, cute.
But then “Sopranos” and E street rock band star Stevie van Zandt with the same message? Uh, didn’t we do that already?
And now, after seeing the “crudité” ad a dozen times and the “Oz owns 10 houses” ad probably 50, I can’t be the only voter in the state wondering “Does he actually believe anything?”
What once was a witty campaign now runs the risk of becoming a huge liability. And some analyses suggest Fetterman’s lead might be narrowing.
By now Pennsylvania voters should be awash in “contrast” ads. Climate change. Worker issues. Trade. Immigration. Tax reform. Fracking. Abortion. I don’t know about other parts of the state, but I’ve seen none of that from Fetterman.
As a candidate who recently suffered very publicly from a severe stroke, Fetterman has a vulnerability to charges of ill health that other statewide candidates don’t. Oz is asking “Why won’t my opponent debate me? What is he hiding? Doesn’t he think Pennsylvania voters have a right to know where their candidates stand?”
And Oz is also making statements questioning his “endurance.” Yes, you may roll your eyes and say “isn’t that sleazy?” But don’t kid yourself they don’t work. Remember all those “Hillary is unwell” ads in 2016?
No campaign to speak of. No platform. No debates. And an ad campaign that is the moral equivalent of driving around the state in a pickup truck: I’m more authentic than he is.
John, you’re a great guy, and if you win you’ll do fine as a senator. But right now, you’re running a terrible campaign. So far, you’ve been helped by the fact that Oz might be running an even worse one. But if he comes out with some hard hitting ads, nothing special, just the usual GOP attack ads – soft on terrorism, anti-police, anti-gun, critical race theory – he could find his legs and you could be in trouble.
In fact, John, you’re already in deep trouble. Starting with the 1970 “If Tydings wins, you lose” campaign, negative ads have proven effective against feckless Democrats. As the polls narrow, the GOP is going to pour more money in. We know he’s from New Jersey and we know he’s rich. Thanks. What else ya got?
Leon Reed, staff writer, is a former US Senate staff member, defense consultant, and history teacher. He is a seven year resident of Gettysburg, where he writes military history and explores the park and the Adams County countryside. He is the publisher at Little Falls Books, chaired the Adams County 2020 Census Complete Count Committee and is on the board of SCCAP and the local Habitat for Humanity chapter. He and his wife, Lois, have 3 children, 3 cats, and 5 grandchildren.