This not exactly a revelation but for all the buzz the strong grassroots campaigns of folks like Jim Neal and Fred Smith generated over the last four months there is no doubt that tv advertising is the key to winning a statewide office in North Carolina, from the top of the ticket on down. Let's review:
-Bev Perdue led our poll at the start of February by 14 points. Soon after that Richard Moore went off the air for a couple weeks, while Perdue stayed on. Perdue's lead expanded to 27 points (probably wasn't really that high) at the beginning of March. Moore came back on, with better ads than he'd run the first time around, and got the race back into single digits.
-At the end of March Fred Smith moved into a tie with Pat McCrory on the Republican side after trailing ever since McCrory entered the race. McCrory went on the air later that week, built his lead back up to double digits, and never looked back (unless you think the WRAL poll last week was correct, but I don't.)
-For poll after poll after poll Kay Hagan led Neal in the area of 20-10. The first poll after she went on tv was 28-7. The next one after that was 35-8. And she just moved on from there.
Even in the down ballot races the effects were similarly clear:
-The race for Treasurer was basically deadlocked in all of our polling until April. David Young went on the air in the middle of the month and took the lead for the first time, at three points in our second to last poll. But Janet Cowell had held back on her money to pour it all into advertising the last week. She swept by Young and won a pretty dominant victory.
-The race for Lieutenant Governor was a perpetual four way tie until Walter Dalton and Hampton Dellinger started running ads. The race went to 25-15 and then 33-23 in the two weeks after they started really advertising.
-Likewise on the Republican side in that race, Robert Pittenger was basically tied with Greg Dority and Jim Snyder, then vaulted all the way up to 60% after his ad campaign hit full bore.
The volume of polling we did in these races makes it more clear than ever before the impact of tv advertising. It may be unfortunate, but no candidate who does not have the money to run tv is going to be able to compete in a race where other candidates do any time in the near future.