published Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Political TV ads pick up in Tennessee's 3rd District Congressional race


by Chris Carroll
From left, Weston Wamp, Scottie Mayfield, Chuck Fleischmann
From left, Weston Wamp, Scottie Mayfield, Chuck Fleischmann

CHATTANOOGA MEDIA MARKET BROADCAST ADS, 6/21-7/3

Candidate // Number of ads // Cost

• Fleischmann // 220 // $33,204

• Mayfield // 91 // $18,340

• Wamp // 352 // $54,199

Total // 663 // $105,743

Sources: WDEF, WDSI, WRCB, WTVC

WHERE WILL THE ADS AIR?

All three Republicans have bought ample ad time on local newscasts. Other choices are a bit outside the mainstream.

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann

• "Late Show with David Letterman"

• "Meet the Press"

• "Nightline"

Scottie Mayfield

• "Jeopardy"

• "The Price is Right"

• "Wheel of Fortune"

Weston Wamp

• "Good Morning America"

• "Inside Edition"

• "NCIS"

Sources: WDEF, WRCB, WTVC

GOP candidates U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, Scottie Mayfield and Weston Wamp scheduled 663 political ads between June 21 and Tuesday on local affiliates for ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, documents show.

While that may seem like a lot -- more than 50 ads a day for two weeks across four channels -- saturation and style vary for the Republicans seeking Tennessee's 3rd District seat.

And it's only the beginning.

Fleischmann is airing 220 repetitions of two ads within the 13-day span, while Wamp is rotating his own trio 352 times in the same timeframe. Mayfield bought time for 91 spots in six days from WDEF, WDSI, WRCB and WTVC, records show.

Expenditures for local broadcast ads tell only part of the story, since each candidate is doing some combination of cable, radio and Internet advertising throughout a district that extends from Chattanooga through Oak Ridge and all the way up to the Kentucky border.

But local television advertising numbers are one way to quantify how much the candidates are spending to reach the 3rd District's largest consolidated group of voters -- Hamilton County residents.

As required by law, each TV station allowed the Chattanooga Times Free Press to examine political ad buys. All told, the Republican field has spent at least $131,826 since Wamp became the first 3rd District GOP candidate to hit the airwaves on June 14.

Democrats in the race, meanwhile, have purchased $812.50 of television advertising, records show. That money bought time for Bill Taylor, a Chattanooga businessman, whose outreach has consisted of four, four-second spots touting his support for the Second Amendment. They aired during the Belmont Stakes horse race June 9.

Two 30-second Taylor spots will air on "NBC Nightly News" on July 31 and Aug. 1, about 12 hours before polls open for Aug. 2 primary elections.

"We're planning more ad buys very soon," Taylor said.

Democratic challenger Mary Headrick, independent Matthew Deniston and Fleischmann's other GOP opponent, Ron Bhalla, hadn't bought any Chattanooga broadcast ads by Friday evening.

As of March 31, Fleischmann, Mayfield and Wamp collectively reported $1.6 million on hand, while the other four candidates had a combined $9,651 in the bank.

The money allows the Republican trio to tell their stories on widely viewed local newscasts, game shows and, in Wamp's case, the July 3 episode of CBS crime drama "NCIS." Thirty seconds on the popular show, which is often in the week's Top 10 most-viewed programs, cost the Wamp campaign $1,125 -- the most expensive Chattanooga broadcast buy yet.

Wamp's second ad, titled "Look Twice," brings the issue of being 25 -- the minimum to serve in Congress and also Wamp's age -- straight to the forefront.

Poll
Who do you now support for Tennessee's 3rd district?

"This election season," Wamp says into the camera, "look twice. Look twice because age doesn't make a man. Confidence and character do that. Our warriors in uniform prove it every day."

While Wamp has never served in the military, advisers said the ad is timely. At a Chattanooga Tea Party debate on June 23 a moderator asked Wamp to name two decisions he's made as an adult that would prepare him for Congress. Wamp did not answer the question directly, instead mentioning his job as communications director at the Lamp Post Group.

Much like his first ad, "A Brave Bet," the son of former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp never discusses the specific office he's seeking in his second ad, instead relying on a screen shot of his campaign logo to send the message. His third ad, dealing with the national debt, begins airing today.

Mayfield's first ad premiered Wednesday. Standing on his family dairy in Athens, Tenn., Mayfield immediately delves into a life spent baling hay, delivering milk and ice cream and running a business. He says he'll fight "the Obama-Pelosi liberals" in Washington, D.C.

All the ads are available on YouTube. Mayfield is the only GOP candidate in the race who has prevented YouTube viewers from posting comments.

At this point in the ad war -- still very early, with two weeks before early voting starts on July 13 -- Mayfield and Wamp have not addressed specific policy matters, and neither has attempted to differentiate himself from how Fleischmann has voted during his two years in Congress.

The congressman's first ad, titled "Character," includes an interview with his elderly father, several family photographs and mentions of his mother's early death from cancer. The ad is a rehash of a similar one used during Fleischmann's 2010 race.

Fleischmann's advisers said this year's redistricting warranted "introductions" to voters in five new 3rd District counties.

"We want to introduce Chuck to new voters and maybe reintroduce him to voters who may have forgotten some details about his life story," campaign spokesman Jordan Powell said.

Fleischmann's second ad, "Fighter," unveiled Friday, mentions the congressman's largely symbolic 2011 vote to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law.

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