The NRCC put together this Web ad, set to sounds of a classical violin, which blasts Owens for not yet filing a personal financial disclosure form. It includes footage of Owens shot by a tracker, and ends with the open-ended question on-screen.
Even though a date for the special election has not been set—the signal from David Paterson is that it will fall on Election Day—Owens is already on the air with a positive biographical spot. He's not as well known as his Republican opponent, Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, and the idea is to introduce him to voters as warmly and fuzzily as possible. It's the same play the Democrats made with now-representative Scott Murphy's special election; they're even using the same ad company.
"They want to write his story before he does, which is a fairly common technique," said Joe Mercurio, a political consultant in New York who normally works for Democrats. (He told me that in this race, "the Republicans may have the better candidate, and in a tight, contested election that may be the difference.")
Scozzafava's campaign has not yet put out any advertisements, positive or negative. (In the recent special election that yielded Murphy's win, negative advertising seemed to hurt Republican Jim Tedisco.) Matt Burns, Scozzafava's campaign spokesman put out a statement saying the NRCC ad was "unfortunate." (Tedisco never rebuked the NRCC so sharply.)
"It'd be this campaign's preference to allow voters to make their decision on who is the best person to represent them from what they're hearing from the candidates, not from outside interests," Burns said. "Ads from outside groups are the sad reality of politics today and, frustratingly, are produced independently of the campaigns and candidates in the 23rd Congressional district."
Democrats are so far not attacking back, and may not need to. Doug Hoffman, the Conservative Party's nominee, today is airing this spot, which contends that Scozzafava is a liberal, and notes her votes for same-sex marriage.