Rory Reid gets tough in ads on state education

Nevada truck salesmen might want to thank Rory Reid if there’s a sudden surge of schoolmarms and policy wonks on their lots.

A new television ad touting the Democratic nominee for governor’s education ideas and policy plans is wrapped in a style that mimics popular Ford truck ads featuring macho comedian Denis Leary.

The ad features a spokesman who evokes the fast, masculine delivery that made Leary famous before cutting to an image of Reid in a burly jacket.

Except instead of horsepower and payload, the manly spokesman references dropout rates and the economy.

"Nevada, we’ve got a crisis," the spokesman barks, before slyly slipping in some Leary-style, knowing irony.

"Not your lame mid-life crisis," he quips as the image of a cheesy, middle-aged man in a leather and leopard-print getup flashes on screen. "It is an education crisis, worst dropout rate, overcrowded classes."

It’s a dramatic stylistic departure for Reid, who trails Republican Brian Sandoval by double-digit percentage points in statewide polls and fares worst among male voters.

His previous education ad featured precocious children delivering the message before cutting away to the candidate who was seated in a school library. Also a departure from the previous spot, Reid, son of Senate majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., puts his last name in the new ad.

Sandoval spokeswoman Mary-Sarah Kinner slammed the content of the ad, which alleges Sandoval has plans to lay off teachers.

"You’d think that someone running for an office as important as governor would at least try to tell the truth," Kinner said. "Rory Reid’s attack ad is entirely false. He made it up. A sad commentary on where he plans to take this campaign and this state."

Democrats and Republicans complimented the stylistic and strategic value of the ad from Reid, who has raised more money than Sandoval and is using it to try to goad the Republican into engagement on the issues.

Democratic consultant Ronni Council says it presents Reid in a context that encourages voters to think of him like they would a thoughtful yet witty friend or neighbor.

She also said it appears Reid knows he needs to get within striking distance of Sandoval among male voters, who opinion polls show prefer the Republican by a margin of more than 20 percentage points.

"That is definitely a man’s ad," she said of the spot created for Reid by the Washington, D.C.-based Dixon/Davis Group. "I almost expect to see a truck driving across it."

That Reid would turn to a truck ad to appeal to men is no surprise to the people behind the Ford campaign.

"The truck audience is obviously male, and our media buy was football, so we packed in as much testosterone and attitude as good taste would allow," said Toby Barlow, executive vice president and chief creative officer for Team Detroit, the company behind the Ford ads.

Republican political consultant Ryan Erwin called the ad "well produced and likely to be effective."

But he added Reid "will catch some heat for this from those who claim it is a ripped-off concept and he’ll have to defend that."

Reid spokesman Mike Trask admitted the new ad was inspired by the truck commercial, but denied it is aimed specifically at male voters.

"A big part of our campaign, as you have seen, is we have serious, innovative plans," Trask said. "To get those out there into the public consciousness we needed to do something that doesn’t look like every other political ad."

The rapid-fire delivery of the speaker in the ad allows it to cover more ground in terms of highlighting Reid’s plan and taking digs at Sandoval. As far as substance is concerned, the ad simply wraps into a grittier package the claims that Reid has been making about Sandoval’s budget and education proposals.

It directs readers to a Reid campaign Web site set up specifically to attack Sandoval on education.

Central among the claims is Reid’s assertion Sandoval wants to lay off 5,180 K-12 teachers, a charge Sandoval flatly denies.

The Reid website uses material from Sandoval’s plan to solve the state’s short-term budget shortfall back in January to undercut Sandoval’s recently released education plan, which Reid calls a "pink slip agenda."

Reid translated Sandoval’s proposal to reduce the salaries of teachers and other state employees into layoffs, a logical leap he says is justified because as governor Sandoval wouldn’t have authority to reduce teacher salaries. That would require teacher unions agreeing to renegotiate contracts.

Sandoval has said in the past that Reid’s analysis is flawed because the teachers would likely come to the table for more negotiations rather than force budget cuts to be done by laying off employees.

During a public appearance last week in Las Vegas, Sandoval responded to the accusation his plans for education and budget cuts would result in mass layoffs.

"The essence of my short-term deficit plan was to avoid mass layoffs, so it sought an across-the-board salary reduction for all state employees to do just that, which is avoid mass layoffs," Sandoval said.

Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@ or 702-477-3861.

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