Democrat Ellsworth resumes campaign ads in Ind. Senate race as poll shows him behind GOP Coats

By Deanna Martin, AP
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ellsworth resumes ads as poll shows him behind

INDIANAPOLIS — After weeks without campaign ads, Democratic Rep. Brad Ellsworth returned to the airwaves with a commercial Tuesday as a new poll showed him far behind Republican Dan Coats in the race for Indiana’s open U.S. Senate seat.

Ellsworth’s ad targets the former senator’s lobbying background, saying he made millions as a Washington lobbyist at a firm that helped companies ship jobs overseas.

“A lobbyist who sold out Indiana to line his pockets,” the narrator says of Coats. “How can we trust Dan Coats will ever be a senator for us?”

The ad is running in the Indianapolis market only, which Republicans noted would not help Ellsworth gain name recognition in parts of the state where he is less well known, such as northern Indiana. The Ellsworth campaign would not release the cost of the commercial but Republicans estimated the ad buy was about $138,000.

Ellsworth supporters hope the new ad will help make up ground with less than a month to go before the Nov. 2 election. Campaign spokeswoman Liz Farrar said in a news release about the ad that voters want someone they can trust to put Indiana first.

“This is the day Dan Coats’ campaign has been dreading. The day when Hoosiers learn exactly what Dan Coats has been doing since he abandoned Indiana 12 years ago to become a high-priced Washington lobbyist,” Farrar wrote in the release.

Coats’ campaign spokesman Pete Seat said the commercial was “a predictable, false attack to distract from what Hoosiers are really dreading: the thought of more uncertainty caused by the higher taxes and increased spending Congressman Ellsworth consistently supports.”

The Coats campaign had a new commercial of its own ready to go Tuesday after Ellsworth’s ad aired. In the ad, which hammers home the campaign’s theme, Coats says all the “false negative ads” from Ellsworth can’t change the basic choice between supporting Democrats in Washington or trying to take the country in a different direction.

“He doesn’t understand that this election isn’t about me, it’s about you and our country,” Coats tells viewers.

The Coats ad was sent to television stations Tuesday to run as part of previously bought air time, Seat said.

The Ellsworth ad Tuesday stuck to the campaign’s theme of pointing out Coats’ work as a lobbyist. It criticized Coats for voting for the North American Free Trade Agreement and said his lobbying firm, King & Spalding, had a prominent outsourcing division that helped companies ship jobs overseas. Republicans pointed out that NAFTA was signed into law by a Democratic president. They said Coats, who was co-chair of King & Spalding’s government advocacy division, had nothing to do with his firm’s outsourcing division.

Democrats have been criticizing Coats for his lobbying work since February, when he first announced he would run for the seat currently held by retiring Democrat Evan Bayh. But a poll released Tuesday by WISH-TV in Indianapolis shows that the lobbyist attacks haven’t gained much traction.

The poll of 500 likely voters shows 51 percent favored Coats, 33 percent supported Ellsworth and 5 percent liked Libertarian Rebecca Sink-Burris. The telephone survey by Lansing, Mich.-based polling firm EPIC-MRA has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points and was conducted from Sept. 29 through Oct. 1.

Analysts predicted Ellsworth would have a hard time winning over that many voters.

“It would be quite a feat to make up that distance,” said Robert Dion, a professor of American politics at the University of Evansville. “We are four weeks away from Election Day and the dynamics can change, but that’s a lot of ground to make up.”

Political analyst Brian Vargus said Ellsworth needs to expand his ads — soon — to run all over Indiana. Some voters are already casting early ballots, and Ellsworth’s name recognition still lags behind Coats, he said.

“He’s going to have to have a really significant buy,” Vargus said. “It’s got to be statewide so that people can’t get away from hearing it.”

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