Kasich PAC Won't Go Negative in New TV Ad Despite South Carolina's Dirty Politics Reputation
John Kasich's PAC is following his positivity lead, and will roll out a TV spot statewide Wednesday in South Carolina focused on national security in the hopes of swaying Republican voters heading to the polls Saturday.
Fred Davis, media strategist for New Day for America, the PAC established to back Gov. Kasich, said a recent spot intended to contrast the Ohio governor with his attack-happy opponents has been well received according to polling. The "Muddier" spot paints Gov. Kasich as the lone voice against mudslinging in the GOP presidential race, and is still running since launching February 4 -- despite the fact it references New Jersey Govenor Chris Christie who has since ceased his campaign. Not the typical campaign ad, "Muddier" pictures in black-and-white a rotund fellow and a man-child sipping water furiously from a bottle -- stand-ins for Gov. Christie and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. The two bookend a group of five men, all caked head to toe in mud.
"As John Kasich has risen, Rubio and Bush have gone negative," declares a voice-over. "Doing whatever it takes to win is not presidential."
The positive -- if anti-negative -- message is a signal for things to come from New Day, which has backed Gov. Kasich with millions of dollars worth of television and digital ads thus far. In South Carolina alone, New Day has dropped $276,000 on television ads since February 9, according to Kantar Media's CMAG data. Federal Election Commission data shows the group has spent $48,000 on digital ads in the state with Arena Online.
Although the PAC also has been running the same ad it did in New Hampshire to introduce Kasich to voters, Mr. Davis and his team have developed specific TV creative for South Carolina that will begin running on television statewide Wednesday night. The New Day ads won't attack candidates vying for top spots in the South Carolina Republican primary, to be held February 20, despite the state's reputation for mudslinging.
"That's what [Gov. Kasich is] really like and so there won't be from us anything negative in South Carolina," said Mr. Davis.
"There's a history of really dirty politics in South Carolina, which seems odd to me because it's such an elegant and serene state," he continued. The man behind some of the most memorable Republican ads and web videos of the last few election cycles, he worked with former 2016 hopeful Carly Fiorina during her failed 2010 run for Senate. That campaign brought voters the now-iconic spot created by Mr. Davis, "Demon Sheep."
The New Day PAC has already been burnt by negative messaging. When the group earlier this month released an ad attacking Sen. Rubio for voting against reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, the PAC had to pull the spot. "Within seconds the campaign had denounced it and Kasich denounced it and so we won't be going down that path again," said Mr. Davis.
The PAC does not expect Gov. Kasich -- who has stated he expects to do especially well once the primary calendar shifts to the Midwest -- to win in South Carolina. "We're in South Carolina to advance the ball, but certainly we do not expect to come out on top there," said Mr. Davis.
Gov. Kasich came in second place in the New Hampshire primary with around 16% of the vote, behind Donald Trump. The Governor's strong showing has spurred interest among donors, especially those who had supported Gov. Christie and Ms. Fiorina before they called it quits. According to Mr. Davis, New Day has received an influx of inquiries from interested donors who have considered giving to Gov. Kasich or the New Day PAC. "All I know is that this has been a very good week," he told Ad Age on Friday.