Jim Ogonowski, Republican Senate candidate, began airing a folksy Massachusetts travelogue on cable television yesterday, a cross between a Michael Moore movie and a negative ad targeting Democratic incumbent John F. Kerry.
The campaign spot - with music played on a picked acoustic guitar and labels in hand-drawn lettering - shows Ogonowski, one of two Republicans mounting challenges to Kerry, stopping in at coffee shops and diners around the state.
He sidles up to patrons and asks them whether they have ever seen Kerry in the state. Not surprisingly, every single person quoted in the ad says "no" or, in a variation, "nope.
"Everywhere I go people are telling me they haven't seen John Kerry in Massachusetts," Ogonowski says in the ad, as he sits behind the wheel of his car, tieless and wearing a sport coat.
"John who?" one woman responds.
The ad began running statewide on CNN and FOX News yesterday, said Alicia Preston, an Ogonowski campaign spokeswoman.
She would not disclose how much the campaign is spending on this initial ad purchase, saying she did not want to divulge campaign strategy.
A Kerry campaign spokesman called the ad fiction and provided a list of four dozen official Senate appearances by Kerry at Massachusetts events so far in 2008.
"Fiction like this belongs on HBO, not cable television in Massachusetts," said the spokesman, David Wade.
The spot is the first broadcast salvo in the race, the Ogonowski campaign said. It has another ad posted on YouTube that shows Ogonowski wandering around Washington and pointing out perks enjoyed by senators, like private elevators.
Ogonowski, who lost the Fifth Congressional District race last fall to Democrat Niki Tsongas, and Jeff Beatty, an Army veteran and antiterrorism consultant, are vying for the GOP nomination.
Ogonowski's campaign theme so far has been to poke mischievous fun at Kerry, portraying him as absent, wealthy, and ineffective, with goofy animations and the coffee shop gimmick released yesterday.
Ogonowski said in an interview that Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee and one of the most prominent supporters of presidential candidate Barack Obama, has been too busy operating on the national stage to serve the people of the state.
His website has an animation of Kerry windsurfing along a timeline of his past nine years in the Senate, in which Ogonowski argues that Kerry has passed "no bills of his own that became law."
The animation also features a Heinz ketchup bottle and an image of Kerry's Nantucket mansion, none-too-subtle swipes by the Dracut hay farmer at the wealth of Kerry and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry.
"He's been in Washington 24 years, and he's passed eight pieces of legislation," Ogonowski said. "He lives in Washington, D.C., and has a home there. And as I travel across the state, I ask people if they've ever seen John Kerry around here, and nobody says they've seen him."
Kerry's campaign has released a list of 13 bills the campaign said Kerry has authored and has seen passed since 2001.
Wade cited Kerry's opposition to the Iraq war and work on legislation, including providing eye injury centers for war veterans and disaster assistance for Massachusetts fishermen as issues important to voters.
"That's why people in Massachusetts want to keep him in the Senate fighting for them," Wade said.
John C. Drake can be reached at email@example.com.