Cook: Did French Hill Make A Strategic Blunder?

by Michael Cook ([email protected]) 155 views 

August is now a memory, but a strategic decision made by French Hill’s Congressional campaign last month may have hurt Hill’s chance at victory in November.

First, please allow me to set the table with the plates and silverware that make my argument.

If you watched any TV at all this year, you are already tired of the ads being run in support or opposition to the candidates for U.S. Senate and Governor.

Now that we’re past Labor Day, the candidates for Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Congress and some statewide down-ballot campaigns will take to the television airwaves with ads, in addition to even more gubernatorial and U.S Senate ads. Also, supporters and opponents of the statewide “wet/dry” issue and the minimum wage increase will likely run television ads.

In short, you won’t want to turn on the TV in the next nine weeks due to the onslaught of political advertising. This coming gluttony of ads will make it tougher for candidates to break through the noise.

Which brings me to the Second District Congressional race between Democrat Pat Hays and Republican French Hill and a mistake Hill may have made last month.

A Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College poll taken in late July showed this race to be a complete toss-up, with French Hill at 44% and Pat Hays at 43%.

The mistake I’m referring to is Hill’s campaign decision to allow Pat Hays to dominate the television airwaves last month. I analyzed the public records of the four major Little Rock broadcast stations and discovered that Hays outspent Hill by almost 3-to-1 on broadcast television in August.

In August, French Hill spent $56,930 on the four major broadcast stations. However, Pat Hays spent $157,127 on broadcast TV. Moreover, it appears in the last two weeks of August, Hill did not run any TV ads, leaving Hays to dominate the airwaves.

Pat Hays ads are fun and effective. You can view his latest, and I believe his best ad, at the bottom of this post. In contrast, French Hill is running a TV ad bragging on how he drives an old car made by Swedish Socialists.

Hays already had significant name recognition in the Second District due to 24 years as North Little Rock’s mayor. With Hays’ August TV ads, the former mayor likely solidified his image and increased his name recognition.

French Hill is not really that well-known among general election voters and he must now attempt to introduce himself in the midst of the TV ad onslaught of the other campaigns I mentioned previously. Hill should have spent more significant funds in August when it was relatively quiet when comparing it to the last nine weeks of the campaign.

Finally, Little Rock television station records reveal that back in July, Pat Hays purchased significant TV time for the last two months of the race. As of Monday, Little Rock stations have no record of Hill’s campaign purchasing any airtime for September or October. As I’ve written previously, delaying purchasing broadcast TV time is a significant blunder in this crowded political environment.

If Pat Hays ultimately wins in November, it could be because French Hill lost the race in August.