Senator Scott Brown's 2010 election campaign won accolades for harnessing supporter momentum using digital tools. Now, the Republican from Massachusetts is latching onto an opposition group's anti-Brown message, in part to help fuel his 2012 reelection campaign.
At issue is a television spot paid for by the League of Women Voters which states that Brown voted to eliminate clean air standards that reduce smokestack and tailpipe emissions. The ad features a young girl breathing through an oxygen mask. The LWV campaign launched on April 29.
Now, Brown is hoping to counteract the negative publicity while inspiring his supporters to open their pocketbooks through his "Defend Our Senator" effort.
"Even though my election is not for another year-and-a-half, the political machine is already gearing up against me. In the months to come, the special interest groups will run many more negative and personal attack ads, just like they did during my special election last year," notes a page on the ScottBrown.com site.
The page features a long missive from Brown, defending his vote for a Senate bill amendment that would have temporarily suspended carbon dioxide or methane related Environmental Protection Agency actions under the Clean Air Act. The amendment didn't pass. An op-ed by Brown published in the Boston Herald today featured a similar message to the one posted on his site.
Below the letter from Brown and an online fundraising form are social sharing buttons imploring supporters to "Defend with Friends" through Facebook and "Defend with Tweets" on Twitter. Beneath that sits a YouTube video suggesting that "liberal special interests are distorting" Brown's record.
"Let's send a message to the mudslingers that their negative attacks won't work," states the video's announcer, as the word "Donate" appears on the screen.
Earlier today, on his Facebook page, Brown thanked "everyone that is spreading on Facebook our latest response video defending my pro jobs vote against more regulations."
According to an LWV press release, in addition to spending seven-figures on the TV ads, the group is also running a "six-figure" online campaign to "target high traffic in-state websites and social media outlets." In addition to the ads targeting Brown, the organization is running similar ads opposing Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill for her vote for the EPA amendment.
The Brown effort appears to be aimed at generating donations towards his 2012 reelection campaign from his supporter base, and possibly spurring interest from voters who are offended by the LWV ad. In addition, Brown aims to counteract negative sentiment and hopes for people to back him in their own words on Facebook and Twitter.
To fight rumors during the 2008 election alleging that Barack Obama is a Muslim, his camp promoted a section on his site using search ads. About a month before the election, a search on "Obama Muslim" turned up a sponsored link that read, "Barack Obama is a Christian. Get the facts at his official site."
Yet, not all campaigns see the value in refuting attacks, especially if they're worried about increasing awareness of the negative allegations. For instance, around the same time that the Obama campaign was running ads affirming the President's religion, John McCain's campaign chose not to use web ads to fight a smear from Obama for America, which linked McCain to the Savings and Loan crisis.
Update: This story originally incorrectly stated that Senator Claire McCaskill is a Republican.
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Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.
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