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A Kinder, Gentler (& Smarter) SCRG? January 23, 2007

Posted by fitsnews in SC Politics.

Classroom Kids1


FITSNews – January 23, 2007 – What was our first response upon hearing the rumor that South Carolinians for Responsible Government (SCRG) was launching a brand new, $100,000 statewide radio campaign this week?

Honestly? We cringed. And not just a little bit.

As much as we love the school choice issue here at FITSNews, in our humble opinion the controversial South Carolina advocacy group that’s fighting for it hasn’t always distinguished itself on the political advertising front.

The ad that SCRG ran against The State newspaper just before Election Day, for example, was in many ways typical of the group’s offerings – hard-hitting, insider fare with lots of rhetorical bite but not much in the way of mass appreciation or appeal. Oh, and the ad had nothing to do with school choice.

That “inside baseball” approach yielded mixed results during the 2006 election cycle, in which school choice supporters picked up a net gain of anywhere between six and nine seats in the Legislature, depending on who’s doing the counting.

Along the way, SCRG became the proverbial whipping boy for liberal spinmeisters like the LaurinLine, the now-defunct Barbeque and Politics website and The State newspaper’s editorial board – not to mention the paper’s ostensibly unbiased newsroom.

Cindi Ross Scoppe of The State went so far as to call SCRG a “cancer” in one of her columns, while veteran “GOP” consultant Warren Tompkins referred to the group as a “scourge.”

Of course, despite hours of newsreel tape, gallons of ink, and acres of Internet real estate devoted to demonizing SCRG – South Carolina’s public education system continued to leave hundreds of thousands of school children behind last year, as one out of three public schools rated either failing or below average and our graduation rate and SAT scores remained dead last in the nation.

Say what you want about the rhetoric on either side of the school choice debate, those numbers don’t lie.

But now, just as State Representatives and Senators are getting comfortable in their nicely-upholstered chairs for the 2007 Legislative Session, SCRG is back with a brand new statewide radio campaign, only this time sources tell FITSNews the group is running positive, issue-heavy ads focused exclusively on school choice.

So is the rumor true? Apparently so.

“We’re just getting started,” said SCRG President Randy Page. “This radio campaign is going to be part of a much broader effort.”

Page declined to discuss details of the new ads with FITSNews, saying SCRG would be releasing the ads themselves to statewide media later today. But a source who has listened to at least two of the new ads said both were sixty second spots featuring what were described as “everyday conversations among normal voters.”

“These are not the fire and brimstone ads you would expect from SCRG,” the source told FITSNews. “These ads include hard-hitting messages, but they deliver their punches in a more intelligent, accessible, non-combative way. As much as legislators may not recognize it immediately, ads like these are likely going to be much more effective in impacting public perception than anything SCRG has previously produced.”

Page also declined to release the particulars of the ad buy itself, but sources tell us it totals roughly $100,000 and is targeted predominantly in the Midlands and the Upstate. The ads are also rumored to include a heavy “concentration” of country music and adult contemporary stations in addition to the standard political talk shows, a clear sign that SCRG is taking its case to the people, not just the politicians.

So how will this news sit with state legislators in those areas? Especially those who had to spend tens of thousands of dollars to protect their seats in 2006?

State Sen. Joel Lourie, a Richland County Democrat and one of the most vocal proponents of the public school system, said he wanted to refrain from commenting specifically about the new ads until he had a chance to listen to them.

But Lourie did say that SCRG would benefit from “going in a new direction.”

“If I was running a campaign over there I would probably do more in the way of educating the public about the benefits of having more choices instead of constantly attacking legislators and attacking the public school system,” Lourie told FITSNews. “It’s just been attack, attack, attack all the time over there and I think that’s turned a lot of people off to them.”

FITSNews will link you directly to the new SCRG radio ads as soon as they are made available, so check back here later today to listen.

UPDATE- – Here are the ads:





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