BOSTON — Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren are spending millions of dollars on television ads to reel in Massachusetts voters, but the two U.S. Senate candidates are taking dramatically different approaches to their on-air appeals.
While Republican incumbent Brown has largely relied on personal stories to drive home his everyman persona — from meeting with Gloucester fishermen to greeting a Korean War hero — Democrat Warren dives deeper into policy, at one point citing the nation’s gross domestic product to craft an argument for more infrastructure spending.
But what may be most remarkable about the television ads is what’s missing. To date, neither Brown nor Warren has mentioned each other by name.
That may be a result of the so-called “People’s Pledge” signed by both candidates. The deal is intended to discourage outside groups and political action committees from launching attack ads.
So far, the deal has held, leaving the decision to air tougher ads up to Brown and Warren, a strategy neither had adopted yet.
Brown has instead opted for a series of relatively sunny ads, including testimonials from his wife, former television reporter Gail Huff, and a handful of Democratic officials including former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn.
In one recent ad, Brown is shown visiting with fisherman and talking about how the industry is struggling with “overregulation, unfair enforcement and crushing fines.”
“I’m going to be fighting to protect them,” Brown pledges, but offers few other details. A press release sent to reporters points to Brown’s support of a bill to ease federal regulations on fishing communities.
In another ad, Brown is seen meeting with Congressional Medal of Honor recipient and Korean War Navy pilot Tom Hudner, who crash landed his plane behind enemy lines to rescue his wingman.
Brown thanks Hudner for his service but makes no reference to specific policies for veterans.
Brown occasionally cites legislative initiatives.
In a television ad that was set to begin airing yesterday, Brown talks about his efforts to prevent members of Congress from making money on the stock market using inside information they learned on the job.
“So I filed a bill to stop insider trading in Congress, and got it passed and signed into law,” Brown says in the ad, which shows a bill-signing ceremony with President Barack Obama.
“For me, it’s pretty simple. The politicians? They should live by the same laws as everyone else.”
While Brown filed the bill in 2011, the idea wasn’t new. U.S. House members had for years been pushing a bill banning members of Congress from making securities trades using information they gained through their jobs.
In his first ad of the campaign, Brown notes other accomplishments, saying he was the “tie-breaking vote on Wall Street reform” and “led the way on a jobs bill for veterans.” Warren, in contrast, has focused more heavily on policy issues in her television ads.
In her newest ad, Warren talks about how the “system is rigged against” small-business owners and how she would fight to “get rid of the loopholes and special breaks and level the playing field,” pointing specifically to tax breaks for oil companies.
In another recent ad the Harvard Law professor lamented what she said was an attack on a slew of women’s issues, from equal pay for equal work, to insurance coverage for birth control and access to abortion.
Warren used another ad to focus on soaring student loan debt and said “America ought to be investing in education and building a future for our kids.”
In an ad Warren used to highlight a seven-point plan to jump-start the economy, she said the nation should put people to work rebuilding the country’s roads, bridges and other projects, noting China invests 9 percent of its gross domestic product on infrastructure, while the United States spends 2.4 percent.
“We can do better. We can build a foundation for a strong new economy and get people in Massachusetts to work right now,” Warren says in the ad.
There are also stylistic differences between the ads.
While both Warren and Brown talk directly to the camera, in recent ads Brown is seen making that pitch from the driver’s seat of his pickup truck — hearkening back to the truck-driving image that helped him win the 2010 special election to replace the late Democratic U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, who died in 2009.
There have been some grumblings about Warren’s ads from Democrats, including former Gov. Michael Dukakis, who told Massachusetts delegates at last week’s Democratic National Convention that “Elizabeth’s media hasn’t been as good as it should be,” according to the Boston Globe.
As Election Day approaches, both campaigns will keep an increasingly close eye on how their ads are resonating with voters, but for the moment, they’re forging ahead.
“I’m trying to talk about the things that people tell me are very important to them and that’s what I’m going to keep on doing,” Warren said this week when asked about her ads.
Brown is also happy with his ads, according to campaign spokesman Colin Reed.
“Scott Brown’s ads are honest and authentic,” Reed said. “They concern his independent voting record and they deal with the issues he’s fighting for in the U.S. Senate.”