It’s not yet Labor Day, but the candidates haven’t waited for the traditional start of TV political air wars. It already has started with the governor and his opponents hitting the airwaves with heavy buys in the Portland and Bangor media markets.

Since I have had some experience from my days in broadcast TV and cable, and have produced some ads for candidates in the past, I always find it interesting and fun to watch and critique the latest offerings. In Round 1 of the Maine gubernatorial sweepstakes, Gov. Paul LePage is a clear winner.

LePage’s 60-second spot tops Democrat Michael Michaud’s and independent Eliot Cutler’s 30-second efforts by scoring numerous points — all positive for the governor. Produced by the Republican Governor’s Association, LePage’s spot hits all the bases: biggest tax reduction ever, improved bond rating, help for seniors, welfare reform, hospital debt paid off, campaign against domestic violence, job creation, etc.

I have never seen more selling points for a candidate successfully enunciated in a single commercial. And, the ad is totally positive. Of course, other LePage ads will take on the opponents and therefore will be branded negative.

Another factor making the spot outstanding is “real” people delivering the punch lines, people that I recognize from the first LePage “kitchen cabinet,” his closest personal friends, Charlie Gaunce, John Fortier and others. The lines are delivered with passion, sincerity and obvious affection for the governor. When the voice-over announcer delivers the coup de grace — “He’s one of a kind” — the ad reaches an extraordinary crescendo. Regardless of whether you like the governor, this pre-Labor Day LePage ad is one of the best I’ve seen. It rates an A-plus .

In Cutler’s two advertisements, it’s beginning to look as if he may be ready to attack. In one, he takes on his opponents with comments such as “the governor doesn’t want to debate because his record is indefensible” and “Congressman Michaud has changed his mind so many times he is not sure where he stands on most of the issues.” It is long since past time for Cutler to climb out of obscurity in this race and to take on his opponents.

Cutler’s second spot, in which he highlights his worldly experience in places like China and his recently successful start-up business producing sales of thousands of Maine lobsters, is perfect. Cutler begins to paint the portrait of a man who has helped create jobs and can actually help bring jobs to Maine. Two good spots and a good start to the Labor Day period kickoff. He gets a B-plus.

Michaud’s ad, however, has to be one of the weakest, least effective spots that I have seen for a long while. I honestly can’t remember any “take-away” from the ad, other than the fact that Michaud worked in the mill in East Millinocket for 29 years after graduating from high school. Don’t you find it difficult to equate his lengthy mill work and his high school education into qualifications for governor? This ad is ineffective and weak enough to rate a D, almost failing.

I suspect that people close to Michaud probably have told him this already, and that new ads that follow will be much better.

negative campaigning: Although most voters will tell say they “hate negative ads,” there is irrefutable proof that they work. Voters may not realize it, but their vote is affected when they are given information that they don’t like and information not widely known about a candidate.

When an ad campaign frames the election by defining the opponent, it is not “negative” campaigning, it is only common sense.

Each candidate has a responsibility to the voters and to him- or herself to do what I call “comparative” ads. These ads contain information that the voters need and should have, but is information they won’t get from anyone except the candidate. Voters need to know why they should vote for one candidate rather than the other.

This simple practice, used by many of my candidates over the years, has produced a long string of consecutive victories. Conversely, candidates who disagreed with this approach often were defeated.

Another political consultant has told me about the “charge from defeated opponents that you run dirty or negative campaigns.”

That charge is inaccurate, untrue and undeserved, as other consultants will attest, but I guess it goes with the territory. My 15 winners liked comparative campaigns. The voters should insist on them.

Don Roberts is a former city councilor and vice chairman of the Charter Commission in Augusta. He is a trustee of the Greater Augusta Utility District, and a representative to the Legislative Policy Committee of Maine Municipal Association.

(Editor’s note: A previous version of this article misidentified the organization that produced the ad in support of Gov. Paul LePage.)

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