Rales Rolls Out Ads
If few Maryland voters are familiar with the name Josh Rales now, many more certainly will recognize the Montgomery County businessman and U.S. Senate candidate by the Sept. 12 primary.
Rales, one of 18 Democrats running for the open Senate seat, yesterday launched an ad campaign in both the Washington and Baltimore media markets -- on cable and network television. An aide said Rales, who is pumping millions of his own money into the race, will be on air in the Salisbury area later this month, and he's promising to remain on TV non-stop through election day. (See ads here).
"We will spend whatever we need to, to get the message out," said spokeswoman Alyson Chadwick.
That message, delivered in two 30-second spots, is more political than personal. Rales pledges to "vote to bring our troops home within a year" if elected to the Senate. Casually dressed in a blue button-down, with an American flag rippling in the background, Rales says he'll press for alternative energy sources.
The second ad -- filmed in front of a gas pump that displays prices of more than $3-a-gallon -- portrays Rales as an outsider not beholden to corporate interests.
"For decades, the oil industry has given millions in contributions to politicians," he says. "It's no surprise we're still held hostage to foreign oil." He tells of his plan to invest in solar and wind power, and to raise gas mileage standards.
A Washington Post poll, conducted late last month, shows Rales is attracting only 1 percent of the vote among registered Democrats, putting him in the very lowest tier of the six candidates included in the survey. Former congressman and NAACP leader Kweisi Mfume led Rep. Ben Cardin by six points among registered voters, 31 to 25 percent, the survey showed.
The good news for the Rales campaign: The survey suggests that a third of the primary electorate has yet to choose a candidate.
Jennifer Duffy, editor of the Cook Political Report, said Rales can skim votes from the front-runners if "he becomes seen as the alternative.
"I think the stars need to align for Rales to win the primary, but his willingness to spend his own money means that he can have an impact on the outcome," she said.
A spokesman for Cardin, a 10-term congressman who has led in fundraising, said the campaign is not surprised by the ads. "It will take more than an open checkbook to win this race," said spokesman Oren Shur. "Maryland voters are looking for a candidate who understands their concerns and has a record of getting things done."
Cardin has paid $680,000 to reserve TV time in Washington and Baltimore during the two weeks leading up to the primary.
The Rales campaign would not say yesterday how much it planned spend on the ads, produced by veteran media strategist David Doak. An FEC report filed June 30 shows Rales has spent $1.4 million of his own money, including an $893,000 expenditure on June 29.
Anita Dunn, a media strategist who is not affiliated with any Senate candidate, said it's hard to predict how the ads will affect the dynamics in the contest, but added, "it's a very different primary today than it was a week ago."
Another Democratic contender, Allan Lichtman, another Democratic candidate for Senate, ran a spate of ads in March.
Ann E. Marimow
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