Behind the ad that helped end Specter’s Senate career

    One of the enduring memories of Congressman Joe Sestak’s successful campaign to topple Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter will be a single, 30-second television attacking the incumbent.

    One of the enduring memories of Congressman Joe Sestak’s successful campaign to topple Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter will be a single, 30-second television attacking the incumbent.

    No single image or sound bite can define a Senator with a 30-year career, but this one came pretty close: Specter telling reporters, “My change in party will allow me to be re-elected.”

    That moment from Sestak’s attack ad became widely known, quoted and re-played by national media covering the race, and it turned up in voter comments on Election Day.

    The ad was produced by the Campaign Group, the Philadelphia-based media firm that’s been doing political campaigns for three decades.

    “It was a brilliant ad, and it was a simple ad, and it was an effective ad,” says Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia-based political scientist and national expert on political advertising. “And it will be well-remembered because it helped to topple a 30-year United States Senator.”

    The video of Specter was stock news footage from a Philadelphia station, and J.J. Balaban of the Campaign Group says it wasn’t doctored in any way.

    The footage was used twice: at the beginning and the end off the ad, and in between came something nearly as powerful.

    “Arlen Specter is the right man for the United States Senate,” says then-President George W. Bush in the ad’s middle section. “See, I can count on this man. See that’s important.”

    The ad also shows Specter smiling with Sarah Palin. Balaban says the ad got a ton of media attention, but he thinks its impact is over-estimated:

    “It helped move things and it crystallized concerns that people already had about Senator Specter and reminded them of it,” says Balaban. “But this was not the ad that moved this race.”

    Balaban says positive ads about Sestak helped more.

    Still, the 30-second spot called “Switch” is a sure contender for an award from the American Association of Political Consultants, known as a Polly.

    Watch the ad:

    [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x97DdZho11k[/youtube]

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