When I was a young reporter at WMOA Radio in Marietta, Ohio 45750 I covered Municipal Court as part of my regular beat.
When I heard the prosecution present the facts in, say, a DUI case, I would think to myself, “That guy shouldn’t be charged with drunk driving. He should have been charge with crimes against humanity!”
Then, when I heard the defense – using the same facts – present its case I thought, “How could the prosecutors possibly have arrested this saint of a man? He should be awarded the Nobel Prize for Good.”
In a negative ad, you only hear one side of the story. If there is enough money behind that ad, you hear that one side so many times you begin to believe it. By the time the candidate being attacked answers, it is often too late; the narrative has taken hold and the response sounds weak.
The effect of a negative ad can be to move a previous supporter into the “undecided” column. Or, it can actually change a voter’s mind from voting for Candidate A to voting for Candidate B.
I know we talk about this every election, but it bears repeating. When we get to within weeks of an election (or caucus) how funny, creative, pretty, or well-produced an ad might be doesn’t matter.
The only thing that matters is: Did it move votes?
Negative ads have proven themselves to move votes more easily than positive ads.
Fasten your seatbelts. With all of the new SuperPACs operating out of the legal control of the campaigns, you are likely to see some really unpleasant advertisements.