Michaud-Raye race draws highly targeted political ads made possible by Google

What’s the connection between one of Google’s newest innovations and the voters in Maine’s Second Congressional District?

In short, ads meant for them and only them.

Google announced Friday it has built a tool that allows political candidates and outside groups to target their ads by congressional district.

And voters in Maine’s Second District, where U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud is locked in a tough re-election battle against Republican challenger Kevin Raye, will be among the first in the nation to experience this new innovation from Google’s Politics & Elections Team.

The National Republican Congressional Committee this week launched an online advertising campaign that targets Michaud and four other House Democrats for their recent votes in Congress against extending the Bush-era tax cuts. Michaud instead supported a failed Democratic plan that would have extended the tax cuts for those with incomes less than $250,000.

The videos are YouTube pre-roll ads: They’ll play before a YouTube video for someone who logs on to watch a video from Maine’s Second District. The other districts targeted are in California, Iowa, Ohio and West Virginia, and they span portions of multiple media markets, typically making it difficult for political advertisers to target their campaigns with precision.

The National Republican Congressional Committee — among the first takers for Google’s new congressional district-targeting technology — is spending $10,000 on this YouTube pre-roll ad targeting Michaud and Maine’s Second District. The committee says the national campaign in all five congressional districts is worth $50,000.

Why is Maine’s Second District in the mix?

“These are districts where we think the message the Democrats are pushing, that we need to raise taxes, is not going to resonate with voters,” said National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Nat Sillin.

It’s also the latest sign that national Republicans think Maine’s Second District is in play.

The National Republican Congressional Committee last month moved Raye, 51, up to “Young Gun” status, the same week a new poll showed Michaud leading Raye 47-35. Raye’s campaign said that figure puts the state Senate president within striking distance of the five-term incumbent. The Young Gun program identifies Republican House candidates the national GOP considers promising.

About a week later, campaign finance reports showed Raye had outraised Michaud during the five-week period between May 24 and June 30.

The 54-second ad from the Republican committee starts out with a tribute to small business owners, with the narrator saying, “They make budgets. They don’t spend money they don’t have.” The ad then takes on an attack tone, tying Michaud to President Barack Obama, and says Michaud’s support for ending the Bush tax cuts endangers jobs. (An early version of the ad spelled Michaud’s name: Congressman Micahel Michaud.)

Michaud campaign manager Greg Olson said the ad goes against the balanced approach Michaud advocates for stimulating the economy and reducing the nation’s budget deficit.

“Everywhere the Congressman goes, Mainers are looking to see fairness returned to the tax code,” Olson said. “There’s a bipartisan consensus in Maine that if we want to get serious about our deficit, we need a balanced approach that includes both revenues and spending cuts.”

Kathie Summers-Grice, a campaign consultant for Raye, said the online ad underscores the fact the Michaud-Raye contest is a close one.

“We can’t control it,” she said of the ad, “but it certainly does underscore what is a clear contrast between Kevin and Mike on the issue of small business and job creation.”