You know when the campaign season really begins? No, it's not when candidates start announcing in droves. It's when TV campaign ads hit the air and the season starts Thursday with a spot for Gov. Norm Bangerter.
The governor, trailing in the polls and now facing an intra-party challenge from industrialist Jon Huntsman, an independent challenge from businessman Merrill Cook and, of course, Democrat Ted Wilson, starts appealing to the masses via television in a commercial written and produced before Huntsman and Cook got in the race."The ad was designed with Ted Wilson in mind," said Bangerter campaign manager Dave Buhler. "But it works just as well with these other guys in the race, too."
In a separate campaign matter, Buhler said it's true that Huntsman has seen a campaign plan written for Ban-gerter. But Buhler said he and the governor were never using most of the plan anyway and, now that Huntsman is in the race and there will be a GOP fight, "we'll just going to scrap (the plan) completely."
The governor will run a 60-second spot for a week. Then a 30-second spot will be added next week, and the two will rotate for another two weeks. The ads cost between $10,000 and $15,000 to produce, and Buhler has bought $78,000 worth of air time to run them. All told, more than $90,000 will be spent by the Bangerter campaign on this first round of TV advertisements.
"The ads were in the can before Huntsman announced. We re-assessed after Huntsman got in Did we want to spend this much money now? Were the ads going to be as effective? and decided to go ahead. Our fund raising hasn't been harmed by Huntsman; we can afford it," Buhler said.
The 60-second ad talks about the hard choices Bangerter has made as governor and how he's approached those choices. Over still pictures of the governor in his office, working in shirt sleeves, the announcer says Bangerter them head on. "Genuine leadership from a genuine man," and, "Common sense yet uncommon courage," says the announcer.
The 30-second spot has the governor talking about his dreams and goals for Utah.
For the two spots, Bangerter was interviewed and filmed for three hours by the ads' producers, First Tuesday. First Tuesday is the media arm of Public Affairs Advisory Group, the GOP consulting firm run by Mike Leavitt, Bud Scruggs and Bangerter's former chief of staff, Jon Memmott.
"We think the ads capture the governor's integrity, character and commitment to Utah," Buhler said. "We want to acquaint people with the governor, how he thinks and works. We know the people know about the controversial issues. We raise those obliquely: taxes, the Great Salt Lake and job creation, without trying to defend the governor's decisions, but show how and why he made them."
The ads may or may not be run again later, Buhler said. Future polling by the campaign will track the impact, he said.
Regarding the campaign document, Buhler said Republicans Richard Eyre and Randall Mackey wrote a campaign plan for the governor last fall. Huntsman, a major player in GOP politics, was given the plan for review before he decided to oppose Bangerter.
But Buhler said the Eyre-Mackey campaign plan "was more of a gripe session about the governor than a real campaign plan in the first place." What strategy was included pertained to a Bangerter-Wilson race from the outset of the campaign. Now that Huntsman's entry forces a GOP fight first, the plan isn't appropriate anyway, Buhler said.