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The Boston Globe

Politics

Scot Lehigh

Steve Grossman’s ad, and his political problems

Steve Grossman has a political problem. Actually, make that a passel of political problems.

Lagging far behind Democratic gubernatorial front-runner Martha Coakley, Grossman needs a big push to catch her by the Sept. 9 primary.

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This week, the treasurer-who-would-be-governor began running a mostly positive, biographical TV spot, portraying himself as a progressive businessman who is “the right choice for a tough economy.” The only oblique reference to Coakley comes when the ad asks: “Who do you trust to grow our economy as governor? A career prosecutor? Or a proven jobs creator?”

Problem 1: That message by itself is so anodyne that it’s unlikely to close a persistent 30-point gap between Grossman and Coakley.

Problem 2: Don Berwick is running as an unabashed progressive, which makes it difficult for Grossman to consolidate liberal votes with a positive paid-media cruise to Coakley’s left. Rather, Grossman will need to jolt some of her support loose with hard-hitting ads that draw sharp distinctions.

Problem 3: When Candidate A attacks Candidate B, the beneficiary is often Candidate C.

Candidate A can reduce that risk by first running positive ads about himself first, to build up a reservoir of good will. Grossman’s new ad fits the positive-first prescription. But . . .

Problem 4: He doesn’t have enough in his campaign kitty to pay both for a widely seen affirmative message about himself and an effective negative message about Coakley.

That could be where Grossman friends Barry and Eleanor White come in. They have set up a shadowy pro-Grossman super PAC, which could fund the rough stuff on Grossman’s behalf. (They declined to comment.)

But such ads still need an issue that cleaves. What might that be? Well, Grossman has previously tried to portray Coakley as siding with the NRA against Governor Patrick’s plan to limit gun purchases to one a month. That was tinny, but we may see it again. If we do, it will reflect . . .

Problem 5: When it comes to progressive wedge issues, Grossman doesn’t have an awful lot to work with.

Scot Lehigh can be reached at lehigh@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GlobeScotLehigh.
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