Wednesday, May 16, 2007

KY Kurmudgeon Compliments Billy Harper

Billy Harper's latest campaign ad, which opens and closes with a spoof of incumbent Gov. Ernie Fletcher's bully-themed ads, is the most creative spot I've seen in this gubernatorial race. The silhouetted little boy in glasses and little girl in pigtails doing the "Did not," "Did too" routine in the opening and shaking the chain-link fence that separates them in the closing effectively gets across Harper's point about "two squabbling politicians (Fletcher and former U.S. Rep. Anne Northup) and a businessman named Billy Harper." And it makes that distinction with a light touch.

Unfortunately for Harper, the latest independent poll results suggest it may be a case of too little, too late. Harper disputes that, however. Previewing the ad for media grunts aboard his bus outside the state Capitol today, Harper said his own polling shows him "coming up rapidly" in the last week. He also expressed the opinion that a runoff in the Republican primary is "highly likely." I put that comment in the "wishful thinking" category.

Is a Republican runoff possible? Yes. Given the way Fletcher and Northup are slicing and dicing each other in attack ads, it is possible they will drive enough disgusted Republicans into the Harper camp to deny either of them the 40 percent of the vote needed to avoid a runoff. And Harper's new ad is an attempt to capitalize on that possibility. But "highly likely"? No. I still consider a Republican runoff to be an extreme long shot.

But, hey, if the Kentucky Derby has taught us anything over the years, it's that you can't overlook long shots. However, even if the long shot occurs and no candidate gets 40 percent of the Republican primary vote, I still don't see any way Harper can avoid being the candidate left out of ensuing runoff. In a way, that's too bad, because the barrage of negative ads we could expect from a Fletcher-Northup runoff almost surely would be devoid of the kind of lighthearted creativity evident in Harper's new ad.

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