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Lynch, Markey Ads Highlight Their Strengths

Rep. Ed Markey jokes with the crowd during the annual St. Patrick's Day breakfast in South Boston. Markey is a Democratic hopeful for the U.S. Senate to fill the seat left vacant by John Kerry. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

photo of Kevin Brennan
March 22, 2013

Rep. Stephen Lynch and Rep. Edward Markey, the two Massachusetts Democrats competing to succeed Secretary of State John Kerry in the Senate, each have debuted their opening two television ads over the last two weeks, and their respective strategies reveal dueling priorities for the two campaigns. Lynch's spots have concentrated on his biography, while Markey's have focused on his policy accomplishments.

In his first ad, Lynch introduced himself to voters, documenting his humble beginnings in South Boston's projects and his previous career as an ironworker. The campaign's second ad offered a similar message, showing several blue-collar workers repeating the same line: "I am Stephen Lynch."

The ad campaign makes sense, given the fact that Lynch has not run statewide before, making him an unfamiliar face to most of the state. The commercials also serve to establish Lynch as a likable personality before some Democratic voters become more acquainted with a voting record they might not always agree with: Lynch is consistently rated the most conservative member of the Bay State's House delegation.

The focus on Lynch's days as an ironworker also hits on another key element of his campaign: The idea that Lynch wouldn't fit in with the rest of the Senate. "The contrast of the bio with the usual profile of people who run and win seats in the United States Senate we feel works to our advantage," Lynch spokesman Scott Ferson said.

This angle also explains Markey's opening ads, which help address one of the frontrunner's chief vulnerabilities hinted at in Lynch's spots: Unlike the former ironworker, Markey has been a member of Congress since 1976. While he also hasn't been elected statewide before, Markey chose to eschew the traditional introductory spot in favor of two policy-heavy ads. The first highlighted his record on gun control, and the second, released Thursday, details his efforts to hold oil executives accountable in the wake of the BP oil spill.

"It's a way of trying to inoculate himself against any claim that he's been in Washington too long," Massachusetts Democratic consultant Mary Anne Marsh said. More explicit attacks on Markey's decades in Congress seem inevitable -- whether from Lynch or from a Republican, should he win the April 30 primary. Markey has already faced questions about how much times he spends in Massachusetts. By outlining his policy accomplishments early in the race, he can point to the good that's come from all those years in Washington.

Both campaigns likely will move on to other subjects with subsequent ads. Don't be surprised to see Markey play up his Malden roots or Lynch talk about his efforts to rein in Wall Street. But the divergent opening strategies inform what each campaign sees as its respective strengths and weaknesses.

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