In one television spot, the candidate cradles his infant grandson and casually talks to his wife and family. In another, he stands outside a prison lock-up to talk about crime and his support for capital punishment. In the third, Robert A. Pascal, the Republican trying to unseat Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes, talks about jobs and economic development in the state.
These three scenes unveiled by the Pascal campaign today are little more than a few pictures and a few words scheduled to appear for the next two weeks alongside such programs as M*A*S*H and Good Morning, America. But they are crucial to the slow-starting Pascal campaign, which must make its candidate's name a household word in Maryland in order to win in November.
"This is the first go-round. This sets up the race," said Pascal media consultant Ted Cormaney of Bishop, Bryant and Associates.
The three 30-second ads follow by two months a similar series of television spots run by the Hughes campaign shortly after this year's General Assembly session, a highly successful period for the low-key governor. Those ads were designed to overcome Hughes' image as a weak leader by pointing to successes he had on three issues--handgun control, drunken driving legislation and drug abuse--identified in polls as voter concerns.
The Hughes campaign, which paid $85,000 for its three-weeks of television time, intends to hold off on more advertising until the end of August. Then, it intends to run television spots nonstop through the September Democratic primary, in which Hughes is challenged by Baltimore Sen. Harry J. McGuirk and two other candidates.
"In the old days if you were Abe Lincoln you could shake hands with everybody," said Hughes campaign manager Joseph Coale. "Now you can't, and the Pascal people recognize that and we recognize that. The only place to get to people when they're relaxed and comfortable and secure is when they're home and the only way you can get them there is through the media."
For Pascal, the main issue was simply getting his name across, since as Anne Arundel County executive he is not well-known. The ads, which avoid mentioning his Republican affiliation, considered unhelpful in heavily Democratic Maryland, are designed to deliver general, uncomplicated messages that his campaign staff believes will cause voters to remember Pascal and vote for him on election day.
In the shorthand of media consultants the messages are "commitment," "crime" and "jobs," the prime topics, along with competent leadership, that Marylanders tell pollsters they are concerned about.
The ads, which picture Hughes as failing to exert strong leadership, assume that Hughes will make it through his primary. They are also designed to take advantage of Hughes' much higher name recognition by posing Pascal, the unknown, as the only alternative to Hughes, the known.
The ads will cost the Pascal campaign $50,000 for the two-week run. Nearly two-thirds of the airing time will be in the Washington market. Another group of television ads, with a more specific orientation toward issues, will run before and after the September primaries. Pascal has opposition in the GOP primary from perennial candidate Ross Z. Pierpont.
McGuirk, the other major candidate running for governor, has not yet hired a media consultant. McGuirk said, however, that he expects to have television ads by August. In June McGuirk spent $20,000 for three weeks of radio advertisements.