SOUTH BEND – Jackie Walorski would like to win the race right here, right now, this summer.
    
That’s why the Republican congresswoman from Indiana’s 2nd District is running TV ads on area channels, including cable, right now, in mid-July.
    
It’s new school strategy in her race with Democratic challenger Joe Bock.
    
The old school of politics was that a candidate didn’t “waste” campaign funds on television ads and other appeals to voters in the middle of summer, when a lot of people are on vacation and most aren’t tuned in to politics. Better to save precious funding for when the campaign really gets under way after Labor Day, when voters will pay attention.
    
Well, most congressional races now are over by Labor Day.
    
In Indiana, due to realities of redistricting and funding, eight of the nine congressional races are over already. Incumbents in those races, six Republicans and two Democrats, are regarded as home free, certain of re-election.
    
The only competitive race is in the 2nd District, and Walorski is running in a district drawn for her in Republican-controlled redistricting. She also has a big lead over Bock in funding. But because Walorski won a first term narrowly in 2012, the race isn’t regarded, like the others, as already over.
    
It’s smart strategy for Walorski to try to win it now, even if some politicians still cling to old theories of waiting for supposed race-starting time in September.
    
Prominent political analysts conclude that President Obama beat Mitt Romney in the summer of 2012. The Obama campaign went for broke that summer, depleting campaign coffers for TV ad blitzes in key battleground states to define Romney in a way he didn’t want to be defined. Romney, with his own funds short after costly presidential primary contests, didn’t respond quickly to being portrayed as an uncaring, out-of-touch businessman, figuring he would have a big funding advantage to define Obama after Labor Day as a failure on the economy.
    
But the negative image of Romney stuck. He was never able to pull ahead in those key states, even after a disastrous debate performance by Obama.
    
Political analyst Jonathan Alter, in his book about the campaign, wrote:
    
“One of the biggest differences in the competing strategies was that Obama, as Clinton had done in 1996, front-loaded his ads five and six months before the election, while Romney unloaded most of his after Labor Day. Eventually even Republicans agreed that the Obama strategy was smarter, and not just because voters get sick of so many ads and tune them out in October.”
    
The image slapped on Romney about Bain Capital, outsourcing and such took focus away from economic issues and provided “kindling” when Romney ignited controversy with his 47 percent remark.
    
In TV ad wars, defining candidates is the goal. A candidate wants to be defined for voters in a positive way before the opponent can make a negative definition stick. And most candidates in competitive races seek to define the opponent in a negative way before the other side can establish a positive image.
    
Walorski’s TV ad buy is to establish a positive image. The ad features folks on camera talking about “work across party lines to get things done,” sponsoring a bipartisan measure to combat sexual assaults in the military, support for the Violence Against Women Act and efforts to lower propane prices.
    
She can afford this early buy and continued TV ads. Walorski announced that she raised $335,000 in the second quarter of this year and has raised $1.5 million total.
    
Detailed quarterly funding reports by Walorski and Bock aren’t due until Tuesday, but it’s certain that Bock trails the incumbent in funds.
    
Bock isn’t doing any defining of his own on TV yet, but he issued a statement disputing Walorski’s claim to bipartisanship. He said her “votes against re-opening the government while still taking her paycheck were hardly bipartisan. She has voted with her own party over 95 percent of the time she has been in Congress.”
    
Will he get that message across successfully this fall? Possibly. But not if Walorski already has blunted it and taken a commanding lead this summer.

Colwell has covered Indiana politics over five decades for the South Bend Tribune.