Negative Political Ads Done Right

29 09 2011

As much as the political process interests me, there is one inevitable part of any election season that I cannot stand – those obnoxious, negative ads that just whack away at the candidate that the group who paid for the ad doesn’t like. Around a week prior to the election it’s practically raining negative ads – they’re on the internet, the radio, and they are all over TV – to the point that at the end of your day, unless you are either working on the campaign for, or personally close to one of the candidates,  you’ve heard so much about lies told and dirty deals hatched that you don’t want to vote for either of them. They both look like dishonest, cheating, morons and, frankly, they do that to themselves.

We hear this every couple of years. “Everybody hates these attack ads,” and yet the attacks return when the elections do. They come back because, as much as everyone says they don’t like them, studies have shown that they work. They get remembered and they get results. My father told me that he still remembers a negative ad run by Lyndon Johnson against Barry Goldwater in 1964 and that it played a role in his voting for LBJ. That ad is known as the “Daisy” ad and insinuated that Goldwater’s A-bomb friendly attitudes could lead to World War III if his itchy trigger finger was in control of the red button. Just as Ronald Reagan’s “It’s Morning Again in America” ad defined his 1984 re-election bid, the “Daisy” ad came to define Barry Goldwater’s candidacy and did a lot to lose that election for him.

It seems like every campaign enters in a race to come up with the next “Daisy” ad – the next attack that so effectively vilifies their opponent that it goes down in political history and is referenced in poli-sci classes (and in the writings of political geeks) for decades to come. That makes for some very unpalatable advertisements invading our every information source. It’s already well underway for the poor souls who live in early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire. Thankfully, amid all the allegations and insinuations, one can occasionally find a bit of a humor. This is from Texas Democrats and is aimed at Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry. It made me chuckle and I wanted to share it.

And you know what, for any more Republican leaning individuals that have kept reading this post and made it this far, I have something for you, too. It is from the campaign of Roger Williams a Republican running for the US House of Representatives from Texas.

Now, obviously I don’t agree with Mr. Williams’ characterization of Democrats, but I have to admit the ad is clever. I wish we had more of these kind of negative ads. Cute, snarky ads get the message across without leaving people pondering whether or not they want to vote at all. These are attack ads done right. Politicos, take note.

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