With the primary election less than two months away, former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton becomes the second DFL gubernatorial candidate trying to reach voters through television spots.
Dayton's new 60-second campaign ad highlights his recent travel to all 87 Minnesota counties, as well as some of his accomplishments during one term as a senator. He also mentions his plans for the state if he's elected governor.
"Mark Dayton will make the richest Minnesotans pay their fair share of taxes, and invest that money in better schools and colleges, create jobs by investing in better highways and clean energy, and make taking care of seniors a top priority," the ad says.
Matt Entenza has been been on the air for more than a month. The DFL-endorsed candidate, Margaret Anderson Kelliher, has yet to buy any TV time.
I don't have a million-dollar checkbook, and that's okay.Margaret Anderson Kelliher
Dayton already enjoys strong name recognition throughout the state, but he says the new ad is intended to reintroduce himself to voters.
"I haven't run a campaign since 2000. I've been on television, but I haven't been on paid television with my own spots for 10 years," he said. "So, it is a way of reminding people of some of the things I did, such as voting against the Iraq war."
Dayton said he is mostly using his own money to pay for his TV ads. He wouldn't say how much, but public records show Dayton has already bought at least $352,000 worth of ads on Twin Cities television stations. Most of the station buys are through the end of June, but records at KARE 11 show Dayton bought ad time between now and August 10th -- the day of the primary election.
When it comes to TV ads, Dayton is nearly two months behind rival candidate Entenza.
"Matt Entenza will put state government back on our side," one of Entenza's ads reads. "We're going to need to focus on the things that made us great and that's our schools, and that's making sure that we have the right kind of economy so everyone has the opportunity for a good paying job."
The former state representative tapped his personal resources to begin running TV ads back in late April. Records show Entenza has bought nearly $711,000 worth of ads at the stations through the end of June.
The only Democrat not on the air is Margaret Anderson Kelliher, the DFL's endorsed candidate for governor. During a recent interview, Kelliher explained how her emphasis has been on organizing her campaign at the grassroots level.
"I don't have a million-dollar checkbook, and that's okay. In Minnesota, we've seen time and time again that you don't need to have a big bankroll to win," she said. "You need people to win. And it's really about being able to articulate and connect with people on what their hopes and dreams are."
A campaign spokesman says Kelliher will soon shoot a TV commercial that will debut sometime after July 4, but Kelliher has not yet bought any air time, and her campaign recently sent out fundraising letters, asking supporters to help her get ads on the air.
St. Olaf College political science professor Dan Hofrenning says there's some wisdom in Kelliher's ground-game strategy, especially when primary turnout is expected to be low. But Hofrenning says money is always a key consideration.
"The Kelliher campaign, or any candidate, they don't want to win a primary and not have sufficient resources to wage a good campaign in the fall," Hofrenning said.
There are also other potential benefits when candidates hold off on ads. Kathryn Pearson, a political scientist at the University of Minnesota, said research shows that some ads can have a much bigger impact close to an election.
"What voters call 'attack ads' and practitioners call 'contrast ads,' those are the ads that are more effective and more memorable," Pearson said. "And those tend to occur later in the campaign. So although the early ads are important, it's those ads that take place closer to the August primary where we're really hearing about the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates, and all three of them are on the air, that are particularly important."
Pearson says campaign ads will take on added importance this year. She says candidates must use some of their air time to remind voters about the state's new primary election date, which is about a month earlier than normal.