March 08, 2004
Rather than allow the Sexton issue to naturally fade away, Hull decided to go on the offensive this weekend and paint himself as a victim of personal attacks from the media that attempt to derail the "Hull train" (Did anyone notice that this quote is from Fox News? If Hull is such a progressive candidate, what are we to make of him relying on Fox News to rescue his candidacy? More on this below. I can't find the article on the Fox News site, did anybody else find it?) Conventional logic would be to let this issue die, as it doesn't appear that there is much more to talk about after the barrage of articles last week. Furthermore, none of the other candidates will push it for fear of being perceived as going negative. With the weekend ad assault, I assume that the Hull camp reasoned that they have enough of a war chest to turn the issue their way by blaming the press and gaining the sympathy vote. We'll have to wait for the next poll that will record post-weekend reactions, but I think there is good reason to believe that this strategy backfired.
The first problem is that the ad just pissed off the press more by trying to suggest that there wasn't a story to report in the first place. There was and now Zorn and others will take yet another day in the media to point that out. Going on the offensive in last Thursday's debate angered Sexton and got him negative headlines Friday and Saturday, and now these weekend ads have pissed off the press and produced unflattering headlines on Sunday and Monday. If he keeps this up he'll have free press till the 16th, but of course not the kind that he wants.
One question however is how much this controversy has penetrated downstate where he is the strongest. Did the aggressive ads air at all outside of the Chicago media market?
The other unintended outcome of these ads relates to the Fox News quote. It's no accident that Fox News would produce a nice sound bite like that, because such liberal media bashing is what defines the network. I know that Hull's message in the ad isn't meant to conjure up images of a vast liberal media conspiracy against him, but in effect this is the impression that it leaves on the viewer. In form, his whining doesn't sound all that different from Bill O'Reilly's and this I think is a huge problem. Instead of being known as the liberal outsider, this ad morphs him into a kind of ranting blowhard who surmises that everyone is out to get him. If heÂ’s trying to woo the left this is the wrong tactic indeed. We'll see how it plays out.
It was also interesting to see how the tactic of unleashing the ads and keeping Hull away from the press this weekend affected the tv news coverage. On the ABC, NBC, and FOX local news, Hull's absense was the story and then the rest of the pieces on the Senate Race were of Chico, Hynes, and Obama shaking hands and working crowds. Maybe he can unleash a few more ads early this week vilifying the press for this biased coverage.