The ad: "Light"
The candidate: Gov. Ernie Fletcher
The race: Republican primary for governor
What you hear: (Announcer speaking over ominous music) “Jobs were fleeing Kentucky. So were our kids to find work.
(Music shifts to an upbeat version of This Little Light of Mine) “Then we hired a doctor to cure our ills. Ernie Fletcher.
“And today, more people are at work in Kentucky than ever before. Our economy booms. Our kids are coming home.
“Oh, some tried to stop him, but Ernie did his job. Shine on Kentucky.”
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What you see: A vacant, rundown industrial site. A young man staring at the camera. A flame emerges from a black screen, and images of Fletcher appear within the flame. Scenes of people walking and cars moving through Lexington, with the caption “thousands of new jobs.” A scene of workers on a construction site with the caption “booming economy.” A young woman smiles at the camera in a park-like setting with the caption “jobs in Kentucky!” A scene of school kids yelling through a mesh wire fence, which cuts to Fletcher swiveling in an office chair. A flame beside the words “Ernie Fletcher/Robbie Rudolph; re-elect our governor!”
Goal: To establish that Kentucky’s economy improved under Fletcher’s tenure.
Analysis: Fletcher’s main strategy in the primary election is to tout his accomplishments, noting that he was able to remain focused on Kentucky’s future during the grand-jury investigation of his administration’s hiring practices. Establishing that Kentucky has a vibrant economy is fundamental to the campaign’s success.
However, the assertion that Kentucky’s economy is “booming” isn’t supported well by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Job growth has lagged the national average. So has growth in the average worker’s income. And the state’s unemployment rate went from 37th worst to 46th.
The number of employed citizens has grown, but at a rate slower than the national average. How much slower depends on which data you accept.
One set of numbers says the number of employed workers grew by 3.4 percent under Fletcher, compared with a national average of 5.5 percent. Another data set says employment has grown by 5 percent in Kentucky, compared with 5.4 percent nationally.
Meanwhile, the state’s unemployment rate has remained relatively steady at a time when the national unemployment rate dropped significantly.
Kentucky’s unemployment rate fell from 5.9 percent when Fletcher took office in December 2003 to 5.7 percent in February. Nationally, the rate dropped from 5.7 percent to 4.5 percent in the same time period.
“Ernie Fletcher claims an economy that Kentuckians just don’t see,” said Michael Clingaman, campaign manager for Anne Northup, one of two candidates challenging Fletcher in the GOP primary.
Lending credibility to Clingaman’s point is this: only five states had weaker personal income growth from 2005 to 2006.
Still, whether voters think the economy is booming or busting, they would be wise to put the issue out of their minds while in the voting booth, said University of Kentucky economist Kenneth Troske.
“The president of the United States has a fairly limited impact on the short-term fluctuations of the U.S. economy,” he said. “A governor would have even less of an impact.”
View this ad on the Pol Watchers blog.