Hutchinson will target ‘soft’ Hatch supporters with new TV ads

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After months of emphasizing that his support is coming equally from Republicans and Democrats, Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Peter Hutchinson said yesterday that his new batch of TV ads, scheduled to debut Monday, will be targeting supporters of DFLer Mike Hatch.

Hutchinson campaign polling indicates that as many as two-thirds of those voters who say they will vote for Hatch in November are only “soft” supporters, and Hutchinson’s new ads will seek them out.

That’s bad news for DFLers, who have been worrying for months about how much Hutchinson’s candidacy would draw moderate DFL voters away from the attorney general. Before last night’s gubernatorial debate at the U of M, Hutchinson has claimed that he was drawing voters away from both Hatch and Pawlenty camps.

But with his numbers stuck between 6 and 11 percent, Hutchinson said he knows he has to make a big push during this last five weeks of the campaign in order to have a chance to win, and he may have attracted as many moderate Republicans as he’s going to get.

The new ads will run, mostly notably, on The Daily Show—hardly a draw for Republicans—another indication of Hutchinson’s strategy. The move is not likely to endear Rudy Perpich’s former finance commissioner to the DFL, whose gubernatorial candidates have seen independent candidates siphon off enough votes in 1998 and 2000 to keep them out of the governor’s office. But Hutchinson has little choice if he wants to make a serious run to the wire.

From the beginning of his campaign, Hutchinson’s common-sense theme has lacked the kind of hot-button issue necessary to galvanize a polarized electorate. And with the fervent anti-Pawlenty climate on the left and the equally fervent anti-Hatch sentiment on the right, Hutchinson has to somehow convince voters that he can actually win before he’s going to see a groundswell of support from either camp.

The new TV ads may sway some DFLers to take another look toward the center, but unless Hutchinson shows he’s narrowing the gap in the polls over the next couple of weeks, he’s not going to grab enough disaffected Hatch voters to put him over the top. Instead, we’ll probably have four more years of Tim Pawlenty at the Capitol.

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