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Government and Politics

Renacci cancels some ad buys, releases poll
Internal poll shows 10 point lead over Betty Sutton
This story is part of a special series.

Kabir Bhatia
In The Region:
Politicians, journalists and pundits are trying to decipher why Congressman Jim Renacci took the unusual step of cancelling most of his broadcast TV ads in the final week of the campaign. Renacci’s campaign says it’s because he could no longer cut through the clutter. Fresh outside money and a new poll are only adding to the mystery. WKSU’s Kabir Bhatia reports.
Renacci cancels some ad buys, releases poll

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Back in the spring, Team Renacci had reserved numerous ad slots on Cleveland’s broadcast TV stations like channels 3, 5 and 8. After hitting the airwaves hard in August and September, the campaign feels it can no longer cut through all the other political ads on TV. So Renacci has opted not to buy more time in his race against Congresswoman Betty Sutton.

Spokesman James Slepian says ads will still air on ESPN, TBS and cable news stations, along with a few broadcast programs. And now, the Congressional Leadership Fund has poured an additional $300-grand into new anti-Sutton TV spots. As for the new poll:

“It lends merit to the media strategy that we’ve been using for the last several months, which was trying to communicate with the voters early in a positive way to help get through the clutter on television. It also shows us that the momentum we’ve been seeing on the ground and also in some other recent polling that we’ve done is really coming to a head right now, and putting Jim Renacci in a very strong position to get re-elected.”

Last week’s internal poll asked 400 voters who they would vote for if the election were that day.

The campaign says 51 percent picked Renacci; 41 picked Sutton.

Sutton spokesman Steve Fought is unimpressed by the numbers.

“If you pull your TV commercials, the national press asks questions, and then the leading congressional prognosticator moves the race away from you in favor of Congresswoman Sutton, [then] that’s enough to unnerve any campaign’s supporters. And I really think it was a panic move. That’s why I call it a ‘sedative poll.’ It’s designed to settle down his supporters.”

The prognosticator he’s referring to is political handicapper Larry Sabato. After the news of Renacci’s cancelled ad buys, Sabato changed his rating of the race from “toss up” to “leans Democratic.”

“I wouldn’t go that far.”

Political scientist Dave Cohen of the University of Akron’s Bliss Institute.

“Frankly, I’m very confused. I have no idea who to believe because, you know, they’re all spinning it in a way that will make their candidate look better. If you listen to the Democrats, they’re saying it’s the white flag of surrender. Showing that he can’t win.“If you listen to the Republicans, it means he’s pretty confident that he’s got this in the bag, and doesn’t really need to spend that extra money in the Cleveland TV market.”

Earlier this year, Betty Sutton released an internal poll showing the race was a dead heat. But Cohen put little faith in those numbers either, especially since the northeast Ohio district leans 56 percent Republican based on the 2008 and 2010 elections.
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