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Political campaign ads: How important are they?

The midterms are just 13 days away and the airwaves are full of campaign ads that try to persuade you to vote for one candidate and not the other. Candidates are on the attack; negative ads are effective. See what the veteran ad makers have to say about the current campaigns.

With us today to chat are three veterans of political campaigns to discuss campaign ads: GOP consultant Christopher Nicholas who is with Eagle Consulting Group and has been in the business since the mid-80s. Mike Bloomfield, managing director of the Mellman Group, a polling and research firm that serves the Democrats. And Art Murray, publisher of Winning Campaigns, an online magazine which specializes in media buying in the political marketplace.

By Rachel Weiner  | October 20, 2010; 11:16 AM ET
Categories:  2010 Election, 44 The Obama Presidency  
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If the attack ads are correct, then every person running for political office is: a liar, greedy, untrustworthy, shortsighted and beholden to special interests. This means that each individual elected to office should not have been elected and will bring our (choose one: city, State, Nation, school board, other) to ruination. Having brought dishonor to our candidates we then want them to respect each other and work together to provide for the common good. We also then rely on them to provide "constituent services" to those who recently vilified them. And still we wonder why our elected bodies don't work too well.

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Posted by: wodwo49 | October 20, 2010 10:30 PM | Report abuse


The problem is that they DO work. But only with those people who want to be told what to do rather than make up their own minds based upon facts. Unfortunately, that is too large a part of our populace for my liking. Says a lot about our educational system. If we can't teach people to think for themselves, they will be led by the nose by people that are adept at manipulating them.

Posted by: Mandy_M | October 20, 2010 8:09 PM | Report abuse

Attack ads usually are full of misinterpretations of the opponents. They are meant to portray them in the worst possible light, even when blatantly untrue. To me, they exemplify the worst tactic in our democratic process. They are aimed at the lowest common denominator in our country. Those that don’t or won’t investigate what is real as opposed to what is portrayed. That goes for all parties. To me, attack ads make me less inclined to vote for the person they promote.

Posted by: Mandy_M | October 20, 2010 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Attack ads work with the lowest people in the nation. That's why the corporate giants behind the 'tea party' psychos are pumping incredible amounts of money into such ads. Fortunately, the "Coalition to Protect Seniors" and other front-groups and scams have been well-exposed.

Posted by: revbookburn | October 20, 2010 7:15 PM | Report abuse

They must work. You see so many of them. For me, they make me turn off the TV. I only watch local weather and sports on TV, and I still have trouble avoiding the political trash.

I think smear ads started in full with George H.W. Bush's Willie Horton ads. Now there are millions spent on negative political advertising, some of that money given by wealthy bailed-out corporations or foreign corporations and donors under the guise of umbrella organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Posted by: tinyjab40 | October 20, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

I am grateful for the cable shopping channels who I flick to everytime a political advert comes on T.V.. I know when I am being manipulated and I refuse to participate.
America has spent millions on these elections but not one person could tell you what any person would do if they were elected.
Millions down the drain as teachers are laid off, families are living in cars, Families are using food banks, millions of American children living in poverty.
What a waste of money.

Posted by: JillCalifornia | October 20, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Negative ads are not effective because of exactly what ancientdude says; they lead us to think poorly of all the candidates.

As far as their platforms and speaches go, we know they will not hold to it.

It is a huge waste of money. Someone and their family was campaigning on the road side while I was driving home and I felt like telling them off. I didn't.

Elections and campaigning have become farcical. Which greedy crook do we pick.

Posted by: hebe1 | October 20, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

I've chosen how to vote as a reaction against negative ads on multiple occasions. If a candidate runs nothing but negative ads slamming his opponent, I'm not likely to vote for him because he hasn't given me any reason to do so. That is, I want the candidate to tell me why he's the best person for the job and why he deserves my vote. Telling me that his opponent ISN'T the best person for the job is not the same thing, and when a candidate runs nothing but negative ads I conclude that it's a sign that he has no ideas of his own. I won't vote for someone who has no ideas of his own.

This year most of the campaign ads running lately are for the Maryland governor's race, and I tune those out because I live in Virginia. From the bits I've heard it sounds as though both campaigns are extremely negative but that O'Malley's is perhaps a bit more so.

Posted by: 1995hoo | October 20, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

The end result for me is, that by election day, I despise all of the candidates because of these ads - what a horrible waste of finances. My decision is made long before the campaign ends and the repetitive airing of these ads irritates the hell out of me.

Posted by: ancientdude | October 20, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Ever since the infamous "Daisy" ad LBJ ran against Goldwater it seems to me that the GOP learned the lesson and has been much better at negative ads. Willie Horton used against Dukakis (a twofer--scary Blacks and crime) What are your opinions (each of you) about the ability of the major parties to effectively use negative ads?

Posted by: Ralph_Indianapolis | October 20, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

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