Amid Sea of Negative Ads, Governor's Race Staying Positive
Pence, Gregg largely shying away from attack ads -- so far
Mike Pence (R), Rupert Boneham (L), John Gregg (D) (photos courtesy of IUPUI)
There's been something missing from this year's race for governor: attack ads.
While the presidential and Senate contests and even some General Assembly races turn nasty, Mike Pence and John Gregg have kept their air war almost entirely positive. Pence hasn't referred to his opponent at all in 10 TV ads and a string of radio spots. Gregg has jabbed Pence a little in his six TV spots, but has kept the tone light and the focus primarily on his own campaign.
Gregg has targeted Pence more directly on the campaign trail, describing him as too far right even for red-state Indiana, and isn't saying whether his ads will change tone over the campaign's final weeks. But he says his goal is to promote his bipartisan credentials as a former Indiana House speaker, and persuade what he calls "Lugar Republicans" to cross party lines.
Pence wouldn't discuss campaign strategy, but he renounced negative campaigning 20 years ago after a pair of bare-knuckled and unsuccessful runs against Democratic Congressman Phil Sharp. He's stuck to that vow since returning to politics with his winning congressional run in 2000.
Another factor may be at work. Gregg notes he's known Pence for 30 years -- the two attended law school together at IUPUI.
Indiana Republican Chairman Eric Holcomb isn't quite willing to credit Gregg with staying positive, noting the barbs tucked into the ads set in Gregg's hometown of Sandborn. But he agrees the campaign has largely avoided mudslinging -- he credits Governor Mitch Daniels with establishing an expectation of positive ads in his two campaigns.
And Holcomb says there's nothing wrong with highlighting candidates' records, as long as the tone doesn't become mean-spirited. He says it shouldn't be surprising that Senate rivals Richard Mourdock and Joe Donnelly and their surrogates have gone after each other hard, given the potential national implications of the race.
Libertarian nominee Rupert Boneham has not done any broadcast advertising.