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The Year Of Playing Dirtier: Negative Ads Get Positively Surreal

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  • Ram Lau
    The Year Of Playing Dirtier: Negative Ads Get Positively Surreal http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/26/AR2006102601811.html By
    Message 1 of 2 , Oct 29, 2006
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      The Year Of Playing Dirtier: Negative Ads Get Positively Surreal
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/26/AR2006102601811.html

      By Michael Grunwald
      Washington Post Staff Writer
      Friday, October 27, 2006; Page A01


      Well, that's what the Republican challenger for his Wisconsin
      congressional seat, Paul Nelson, claims in his new ads, the ones with
      "XXX" stamped across Mr. Kind's face. It turns out that Mr. Kind --
      along with more than 200 of his fellow hedonists in the House --
      opposed an unsuccessful effort to stop the National Institutes of
      Health from pursuing peer-reviewed sex studies. According to Mr.
      Nelson's ads, the Democrat also wants to "let illegal aliens burn the
      American flag" and "allow convicted child molesters to enter this
      country."

      To Mr. Nelson, that doesn't even qualify as negative campaigning.

      "Negative campaigning is vicious personal attacks," he said in an
      interview. "This isn't personal at all."

      By 2006 standards, maybe it isn't.

      On the brink of what could be a power-shifting election, it is
      kitchen-sink time: Desperate candidates are throwing everything. While
      negative campaigning is a tradition in American politics, this year's
      version in many races has an eccentric shade, filled with insinuations
      of corruption and sexual perversion.

      At the same time, the growth of "independent expenditures" by national
      parties and other groups has allowed candidates to distance themselves
      from distasteful attacks on their opponents, while blogs and YouTube
      have provided free distribution networks for eye-catching hatchet jobs.

      "When the news is bad, the ads tend to be negative," said Shanto
      Iyengar, a Stanford professor who studies political advertising. "And
      the more negative the ad, the more likely it is to get free media
      coverage. So there's a big incentive to go to the extremes."

      The result has been a carnival of ugly, especially on the GOP side,
      where operatives are trying to counter what polls show is a hostile
      political environment by casting opponents as fatally flawed
      characters. The National Republican Campaign Committee is spending
      more than 90 percent of its advertising budget on negative ads,
      according to GOP operatives, and the rest of the party seems to be
      following suit. A few examples of the "character issues" taking center
      stage two weeks before Election Day:

      In New York, the NRCC ran an ad accusing Democratic House candidate
      Michael Arcuri, a district attorney, of using taxpayer dollars for
      phone sex. "Hi, sexy," a dancing woman purrs. "You've reached the
      live, one-on-one fantasy line." It turns out that one of Mr. Arcuri's
      aides had tried to call the state Division of Criminal Justice, which
      had a number that was almost identical to a porn line. The misdial
      cost taxpayers $1.25.

      In Ohio, GOP gubernatorial candidate Kenneth Blackwell, trailing by
      more than 20 points in polls, has accused front-running Democratic
      Rep. Ted Strickland of protecting a former aide who was convicted in
      1994 on a misdemeanor indecency charge. Mr. Blackwell's campaign is
      also warning voters through suggestive "push polls" that Mr.
      Strickland failed to support a resolution condemning sex between
      adults and children; Mr. Strickland, a psychiatrist, objected to a
      line suggesting that sexually abused children could not have healthy
      relationships when they grew up.

      The Republican Party of Wisconsin distributed a mailing linking
      Democratic House candidate Steve Kagen to a convicted serial killer
      and child rapist. The supposed connection: The "bloodthirsty" attorney
      for the killer had also done legal work for Mr. Kagen.

      In two dozen congressional districts, a political action committee
      supported by a white Indianapolis businessman, Patrick Rooney, is
      running ads saying Democrats want to abort black babies. A voice says,
      "If you make a little mistake with one of your hos, you'll want to
      dispose of that problem tout de suite, no questions asked."

      In the week's most controversial ad, the Republican National Committee
      slammed Rep. Harold Ford, D-Tenn., for attending a Playboy-sponsored
      Super Bowl party. In the ad, a scantily clad white actress winks as
      she reminisces about good times with Mr. Ford, who is black. That ad
      has been pulled, but the RNC has a new one claiming that Mr. Ford
      "wants to give the abortion pill to schoolchildren."

      Some Democrats are playing rough, too. House candidate Chris Carney is
      running ads slamming the "family values" of Rep. Don Sherwood, R-Pa.,
      whose former mistress accused him of choking her. And House candidate
      Kirsten Gillibrand has an ad online ridiculing Rep. John Sweeney,
      R-N.Y., for attending a late-night fraternity party. "What's a
      50-year-old man doing at a frat party anyway?" one young woman asks,
      as a faux Sweeney boogies behind her to the Beastie Boys. "Totally
      creeping me out!" another responds.

      But most harsh Democratic attacks have focused on the policies and
      performance of the Republican majority, trying to link Republicans to
      Mr. Bush, the unpopular war in Iraq and the scandals involving former
      Rep. Mark Foley and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. That is not
      surprising, given that polls show two thirds of the electorate thinks
      the country is going in the wrong direction. And studies show that
      negative ads can reduce turnout; Democrats hope a constant drumbeat of
      scandal, Iraq and "stay the course" will persuade conservatives to
      stay home on Nov. 7.

      It is harder for Republicans to blame out-of-power Democrats for the
      current state of Washington, but they are equally eager to depress
      Democratic turnout and fire up their own conservative base. One GOP
      strategy has been raising the specter of House Minority Leader Nancy
      Pelosi, a San Francisco liberal, becoming speaker; for example, Rep.
      John Hostettler, R-Ind., is airing radio ads warning that a Democratic
      victory would allow Ms. Pelosi to "put in motion her radical plan to
      advance the homosexual agenda." Then again, Mr. Hostettler's opponent,
      Democrat Brad Ellsworth, has accused him of promoting the sale of guns
      to criminals, "including child rapists."

      Some of this year's negative ads are more substantive, reprising a
      successful Republican strategy from 2002 and 2004: portraying
      Democrats as soft on terrorism. For example, Rep. Nancy Johnson,
      R-Conn., has an ad lambasting her opponent for opposing Mr. Bush's
      efforts to conduct wiretaps without search warrants. A host of
      Democrats have been accused of trying to "cut and run" in Iraq --
      including House candidate Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, who lost both
      legs in Iraq.

      The RNC has raised eyebrows with an ad consisting almost entirely of
      al-Qaida videos starring Osama bin Laden and his top deputies. There
      is no sound except for a ticking bomb, before the final warning:
      "Those are the stakes. Vote November 7th." John Geer, a Vanderbilt
      professor who has written a book defending negative political ads,
      says he told a well-connected Republican friend in Washington that the
      ticking-bomb ploy seemed like a desperation move. The friend e-mailed
      back, "John, we're desperate!"

      "Look, the electorate is polarized, the stakes are large, and neither
      party has much to run on right now," Mr. Geer said. "You can expect to
      see some pretty outlandish ads."
    • THOMAS JOHNSON
      I can t wait for this to be over..... ... http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/26/AR2006102601811.html ... === message truncated ===
      Message 2 of 2 , Oct 30, 2006
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        I can't wait for this to be over.....

        --- Ram Lau <ramlau@...> wrote:

        > The Year Of Playing Dirtier: Negative Ads Get
        > Positively Surreal
        >
        http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/26/AR2006102601811.html
        >
        > By Michael Grunwald
        > Washington Post Staff Writer
        > Friday, October 27, 2006; Page A01
        >
        >
        > Well, that's what the Republican challenger for his
        > Wisconsin
        > congressional seat, Paul Nelson, claims in his new
        > ads, the ones with
        > "XXX" stamped across Mr. Kind's face. It turns out
        > that Mr. Kind --
        > along with more than 200 of his fellow hedonists in
        > the House --
        > opposed an unsuccessful effort to stop the National
        > Institutes of
        > Health from pursuing peer-reviewed sex studies.
        > According to Mr.
        > Nelson's ads, the Democrat also wants to "let
        > illegal aliens burn the
        > American flag" and "allow convicted child molesters
        > to enter this
        > country."
        >
        > To Mr. Nelson, that doesn't even qualify as negative
        > campaigning.
        >
        > "Negative campaigning is vicious personal attacks,"
        > he said in an
        > interview. "This isn't personal at all."
        >
        > By 2006 standards, maybe it isn't.
        >
        > On the brink of what could be a power-shifting
        > election, it is
        > kitchen-sink time: Desperate candidates are throwing
        > everything. While
        > negative campaigning is a tradition in American
        > politics, this year's
        > version in many races has an eccentric shade, filled
        > with insinuations
        > of corruption and sexual perversion.
        >
        > At the same time, the growth of "independent
        > expenditures" by national
        > parties and other groups has allowed candidates to
        > distance themselves
        > from distasteful attacks on their opponents, while
        > blogs and YouTube
        > have provided free distribution networks for
        > eye-catching hatchet jobs.
        >
        > "When the news is bad, the ads tend to be negative,"
        > said Shanto
        > Iyengar, a Stanford professor who studies political
        > advertising. "And
        > the more negative the ad, the more likely it is to
        > get free media
        > coverage. So there's a big incentive to go to the
        > extremes."
        >
        > The result has been a carnival of ugly, especially
        > on the GOP side,
        > where operatives are trying to counter what polls
        > show is a hostile
        > political environment by casting opponents as
        > fatally flawed
        > characters. The National Republican Campaign
        > Committee is spending
        > more than 90 percent of its advertising budget on
        > negative ads,
        > according to GOP operatives, and the rest of the
        > party seems to be
        > following suit. A few examples of the "character
        > issues" taking center
        > stage two weeks before Election Day:
        >
        > In New York, the NRCC ran an ad accusing Democratic
        > House candidate
        > Michael Arcuri, a district attorney, of using
        > taxpayer dollars for
        > phone sex. "Hi, sexy," a dancing woman purrs.
        > "You've reached the
        > live, one-on-one fantasy line." It turns out that
        > one of Mr. Arcuri's
        > aides had tried to call the state Division of
        > Criminal Justice, which
        > had a number that was almost identical to a porn
        > line. The misdial
        > cost taxpayers $1.25.
        >
        > In Ohio, GOP gubernatorial candidate Kenneth
        > Blackwell, trailing by
        > more than 20 points in polls, has accused
        > front-running Democratic
        > Rep. Ted Strickland of protecting a former aide who
        > was convicted in
        > 1994 on a misdemeanor indecency charge. Mr.
        > Blackwell's campaign is
        > also warning voters through suggestive "push polls"
        > that Mr.
        > Strickland failed to support a resolution condemning
        > sex between
        > adults and children; Mr. Strickland, a psychiatrist,
        > objected to a
        > line suggesting that sexually abused children could
        > not have healthy
        > relationships when they grew up.
        >
        > The Republican Party of Wisconsin distributed a
        > mailing linking
        > Democratic House candidate Steve Kagen to a
        > convicted serial killer
        > and child rapist. The supposed connection: The
        > "bloodthirsty" attorney
        > for the killer had also done legal work for Mr.
        > Kagen.
        >
        > In two dozen congressional districts, a political
        > action committee
        > supported by a white Indianapolis businessman,
        > Patrick Rooney, is
        > running ads saying Democrats want to abort black
        > babies. A voice says,
        > "If you make a little mistake with one of your hos,
        > you'll want to
        > dispose of that problem tout de suite, no questions
        > asked."
        >
        > In the week's most controversial ad, the Republican
        > National Committee
        > slammed Rep. Harold Ford, D-Tenn., for attending a
        > Playboy-sponsored
        > Super Bowl party. In the ad, a scantily clad white
        > actress winks as
        > she reminisces about good times with Mr. Ford, who
        > is black. That ad
        > has been pulled, but the RNC has a new one claiming
        > that Mr. Ford
        > "wants to give the abortion pill to schoolchildren."
        >
        > Some Democrats are playing rough, too. House
        > candidate Chris Carney is
        > running ads slamming the "family values" of Rep. Don
        > Sherwood, R-Pa.,
        > whose former mistress accused him of choking her.
        > And House candidate
        > Kirsten Gillibrand has an ad online ridiculing Rep.
        > John Sweeney,
        > R-N.Y., for attending a late-night fraternity party.
        > "What's a
        > 50-year-old man doing at a frat party anyway?" one
        > young woman asks,
        > as a faux Sweeney boogies behind her to the Beastie
        > Boys. "Totally
        > creeping me out!" another responds.
        >
        > But most harsh Democratic attacks have focused on
        > the policies and
        > performance of the Republican majority, trying to
        > link Republicans to
        > Mr. Bush, the unpopular war in Iraq and the scandals
        > involving former
        > Rep. Mark Foley and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
        > That is not
        > surprising, given that polls show two thirds of the
        > electorate thinks
        > the country is going in the wrong direction. And
        > studies show that
        > negative ads can reduce turnout; Democrats hope a
        > constant drumbeat of
        > scandal, Iraq and "stay the course" will persuade
        > conservatives to
        > stay home on Nov. 7.
        >
        > It is harder for Republicans to blame out-of-power
        > Democrats for the
        > current state of Washington, but they are equally
        > eager to depress
        > Democratic turnout and fire up their own
        > conservative base. One GOP
        > strategy has been raising the specter of House
        > Minority Leader Nancy
        > Pelosi, a San Francisco liberal, becoming speaker;
        > for example, Rep.
        > John Hostettler, R-Ind., is airing radio ads warning
        > that a Democratic
        > victory would allow Ms. Pelosi to "put in motion her
        > radical plan to
        > advance the homosexual agenda." Then again, Mr.
        > Hostettler's opponent,
        > Democrat Brad Ellsworth, has accused him of
        > promoting the sale of guns
        > to criminals, "including child rapists."
        >
        > Some of this year's negative ads are more
        > substantive, reprising a
        > successful Republican strategy from 2002 and 2004:
        > portraying
        >
        === message truncated ===
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