KC Buzz Blog asks the question, having observed:
Claire McCaskill and Jim Talent will probably spend $18 million, combined, on TV before Tuesday — yet their race is roughly where it was a year ago.
Nancy Boyda, by contrast, hasn’t spent a lot on TV — but has pulled close to Rep. Jim Ryun in Kansas 02.
Perhaps some of the cognitive scientists here at Sb will take up this answer from an academic perspective, but I’ve put some specific comments on those two races below the fold.
Two things make a difference here. First, Claire McCaskill just finished running for Governor and holds statewide office, people already know her, and the advertising on the air in Missouri isn’t giving people a lot of new information about her. Those who like her, like her, those who don’t, don’t.
Nancy Boyda is less well-known. She ran for the same seat two years ago, but did so in a year when the focus was not on House elections. The DCCC dictated strategy for the campaign was intensely negative then and failed to define Nancy personally. That made it easy for the Ryun camp to plant doubts about her character, and her campaign never really kicked into high gear. This campaign’s ads are almost all positive ads. Most are man-on-the-street spots, in which regular people explain what they like about Boyda, and what they don’t like about Ryun. These ads are personal and do a lot to introduce us to Nancy.
The other difference between the ad strategies is that the Talent/McCaskill race is being fought on broadcast TV, while Boyda’s ad buy is on cable. I suspect she’s got almost as much air time as McCaskill does, but it’s on the cheaper cable stations. And that’s good because it saves money and it targets only the 2nd District. Plus, as documented in Crashing the Gate by Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas, the broadcast stations reach less than 40% of households during prime time, down from 90 percent in the 1970s. The other 60% are watching cable, and that’s who Boyda is reaching.
Smaller, smarter ad buys and ads that actually give people new information about a candidate can work. Doing the same old thing doesn’t.