By Deborah Charles
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (Reuters) - Frances Woodard is so sick of being bombarded by political commercials, especially the negative ads, that she thinks she will skip voting in South Carolina's upcoming presidential primary.
"It's just too much," said Woodard, who sees political ads for all the different Republican presidential hopefuls non-stop when she is home from work, and flipping the TV channel does not offer an escape. "It's the same thing over and over again."
"It's just disgusting. Some of them just don't sound so nice," Woodard said as she pushed a grocery cart in a Columbia store. "They should try to talk more about what they're trying to do than bring the other guy down. They are all negative men."
Woodard is not alone. As candidates and groups supporting them pour millions of dollars in advertising into South Carolina ahead of its January 21 primary, many are turned off. Republicans are selecting a candidate to challenge President Barack Obama in November's election.
People complain that television is not fun any more, with some networks playing up to a dozen political ads in one hour. Many of them are negative and some air more than once.
People also receive call after call on the phone in the afternoon and evening. Most are "robo-calls" with a candidate's recorded voice speaking without a greeting into the phone, and pollsters also call regularly.
Phil Howell, a retired member of the military sitting in an electric scooter, just shook his head when he was asked about political advertisements.
"I was afraid you were going to ask about that," he said, noting he was fed up with all the candidates but believed that as a conservative Republican who wanted to make his voice heard, he needed to vote.
"It makes you not want to vote," he said. "I'd love to see a candidate come on board that doesn't say a thing about his adversary. My dad always used to tell me not to talk about your adversary - that just gives them free advertising."
'MORTAL SIN' TO WASTE MONEY ON ADS
So far in this election cycle, super PACS - political committees that are not directly linked to campaigns but support specific candidates - have reported spending $21.5 million. The super PACs have reported spending at least $5.2 million in South Carolina alone and politicians are also sinking hundreds of thousands of dollars into the state.
"When I see that so-and-so put $3 million, or whatever, into a certain region in advertising, with all the people living under bridges and the veterans needing help ... it just seems like a mortal sin to throw that money away," said Howell.
It is not only the money but the tone of the ads that have turned off many, with negative advertising a hallmark of the campaign, especially in South Carolina - a deeply conservative state that is notorious for political dirty tricks.
"Governor (Mitt) Romney is the one who started all the negative advertising," said Cheryl Cox, referring to the former Massachusetts governor and Republican front-runner, who has launched many negative ads in the state aimed mainly at former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich.
"I don't want to know what Governor Romney's feelings are about Newt Gingrich," said Cox, who was in Walterboro attending an event for Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is lagging in the race. "I don't want to know what Governor Romney's feelings are about Rick Perry or any of the others. I want to know what he's going to do for me."
Voters agreed that this campaign cycle seemed much more geared toward negative advertising than before. But unlike the past, when it was more difficult to discern who paid for the ad that criticized one of the candidates, now it is clear.
One ad airing in Columbia blasted former Senator Rick Santorum for his record in Congress. It ended with a narrator saying: "Don't be fooled. Rick Santorum: a record of betrayal. Another serial hypocrite who can't be trusted." That was followed by "I'm Ron Paul and I approve this message."
An ad paid for by Gingrich offers circus-like music in the background as clips of Romney bloopers are played. The ad ends with a clip reminding voters that Romney placed the family dog in a portable kennel and attached it to the roof of his car when the family went on vacation one year.
In an unusual move, or perhaps a realization that voters were getting fed up, Gingrich on Friday urged a super PAC supporting him to correct mistakes or cancel a newly released documentary portraying Romney as a corporate raider who cost thousands of Americans their jobs.
All the advertising and phone calls do not seem to be doing their job.
"These people are just lambasting each other," said Howell. "In the end, I will vote for the lesser of seven or eight evils who will do the least damage to my country."
(Additional reporting by Samuel P. Jacobs and Andy Sullivan in South Carolina and Alexander Cohen in Washington; Editing by Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney)