With six weeks to go in the Philadelphia Democratic mayoral primary, the race is beginning to take some form. Three candidates — Anthony Williams, Jim Kenney and Lynne Abraham — are showing up in polls, with the others looking for some oxygen to catch fire.
A few observations:
1. Voters still watch Jeopardy.
The scraps of insight you can get from campaign polls suggest the new media world and millennials’ attachment to mobile screens hasn’t changed one thing: the best way to move voters is still to spend a ton of money on broadcast television.
Abraham probably began the race with a lead because she was the best-known candidate. But now Kenney and Williams have had the benefit of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of positive ads on television, so a Kenney-friendly poll shows them even with and maybe ahead of Abraham.
Remember that older citizens are more likely to vote than younger ones, and they’re more likely to watch broadcast television than new media. This will no doubt change eventually, but it seems that again in this campaign, the biggest chunk of campaign spending will go to TV stations.
2. The Super PAC’s roar.
A number of observers, including the sage Executive Vice President of Comcast, David L. Cohen have told me this could be an election in which independent expenditure groups, operating outside the city’s campaign finance limits, could actually outspend the candidates in the race.
So far that’s true in paid media, to a degree that’s almost shocking. I’ve checked placements of broadcast and cable TV ads, and the independent groups are so far outpacing candidate spending by a ratio of eight to one.
3. Battle for the black vote emerges
It’s hardly surprising, given Williams family history, his senate district and thus his natural voting base. While Williams’ campaign theme is “One Philadelphia” and he argues his policy initiatives are important to all, it’s smart politics for him to be try and become the one candidate for those who value electing an African-American mayor.
It’s also interesting to see that Kenney has scheduled a news conference today with elected leaders from Northwest Philadelphia, which could give him the support of several prominent African American leaders.
4. Does business matter in this race?
It’s striking to me that if you go back a few years, there was a lot more conversation about the burden of city taxes on companies and wage earners and their effect on job growth.
The Chamber of Commerce has held a series of events aimed at putting growth on the agenda in the mayor’s race, and it’s staging a televised debate tomorrow night at 7 pm. On NBC10 and Telemundo 62.
I’m interested both because of the subject matter, and because the TV audience offers a chance for a candidate who thinks it’s time to shake the race up with something provocative to make a move while the cameras roll.