Political Advertising

When Candidates Get Desperate, They Try to Scare You

Rick Santorum’s eerie new ad “Welcome to Obamaville” isn’t the first time a candidate to tried to scare Americans into voting for him.

As Dave Weigel notes, “There’s a history here, a rich tradition of ads from candidates who predict doom if they don’t win. These candidates, being desperate, usually lose. America endures. But the ads keep coming anyway.”

Why We Have So Many Negative Political Ads

Paul Begala: “The biggest reason negative ads are so ubiquitous in politics, but much less common in commercial advertising, is this: elections present a mutually exclusive choice. It is legal to buy a can of Coke and a can of Pepsi on the same day, but you can’t vote for Obama and Romney in the same election. That mutual exclusivity pushes campaigns to frame the choice more sharply. Imagine if we had Cola Day once every four years — and you were stuck with your choice for those four years. Coke would say Pepsi makes you fat; Pepsi would counterattack that Coke makes you impotent. And they’d go downhill from there.”

“So the next time a public moralist starts lamenting the role of negative advertising in our political system, just explain that it’s an outgrowth of the stakes involved. As the old saying has it, politics ain’t beanbag — and a political campaign isn’t selling soft drinks. The outcome matters — and influencing it is worth every negative word or image a candidate and his team can muster.”

Attack Ad of the Day

A campaign mailer from New Jersey Assemblyman Scott Rumana (R) “is essentially a full campaign’s worth of opposition research” against opponent Bill Brennan (D), “slapped into one glossy brochure and sent to homes in Wayne Township.”

“Included in the piece are pictures of at least five police reports filed against Brennan, excerpts from a judge’s ruling in a court case filed by Brennan, a copy of a building code violation issued to Brennan and even a picture of the shirtless Democrat in the act of blocking a code inspector from photographing his patio.”