No, it’s not your imagination. Things are uglier than ever in the Sunshine State.
A staggering 92 percent of the political ads run in Florida over the last week of the campaign have been negative.
“For as long as I’ve been in politics, 14 years, journalists call me and ask if this is the most negative election ad atmosphere I've ever seen,” says Kenneth Goldstein, president of Kantar Media CMAG, which tracks content and targeting of political advertising. “And every year I say, Don’t be ridiculous."
“But this year it's true. This primary season is the most negative it's ever been,” asserts Goldstein. “I have absolutely never seen television advertising so negative in a Republican presidential primary.”
This tsunami of sleaze is being propelled by unprecedented advertising buys. The Romney campaign and its associated super PAC, Restore Our Future, have spent $15.3 million in Florida over the past month alone, according to Maggie Haberman of Politico. To put this in perspective, John McCain spent $11 million on ads during his entire 2008 primary campaign. Back on this side of Citizens United, Newt Gingrich and his billionaire-backed super PAC have “only” spent an estimated $3 million—giving Romney a 5-to-1 spending advantage in the Sunshine State.
(...) “The Romney camp made a very clear decision that this was going to be somebody's Waterloo,” says Rick Wilson, a legendary Republican operative and CEO of Florida-based Intrepid Media. “In the past, a 60-40 positive to negative ratio in ads used to be considered a heavy load. But that world is just gone.”
“The scope and effectiveness of their negative campaigning have been breathtaking—and it’s all paid off,” says Wilson. “They figured out on the fly that Romney showing fight and backbone—not being a squishy-soft, mealy-mouthed, half-assed campaigner—could bear dividends with conservatives. Because everything comes down to 'will we have a candidate who takes it hard to Obama?'…And he's narrowed the gap. Tea Party conservatives are split between Romney and Gingrich—which would have been unimaginable in South Carolina.”
“This is all because they shaped the battlefield a month in advance, starting by going off on Gingrich's baggage—Freddie and Fannie, his electability, sitting on the couch with Nancy Pelosi—and they never backed off, which is a common mistake,” concludes Wilson. “They realized that Gingrich is like a zombie—if you don't shoot him in the head he'll just go and go and go.”
(...) The barrage of negative ads has been effective—Newt’s momentum coming off a South Carolina win seems to have been stopped by Romney’s money. It’s a play we saw in Iowa, where CMAG concluded that 45 percent of the total ads aired were anti-Newt, pushing Gingrich from first to fourth in a matter of weeks. Gingrich’s brief attempt to honor Reagan’s 11th commandment was not rewarded with popular support. In Florida, a must-win state for Romney, the decision was made to go all in: “In the last two weeks, they decided that the campaign would have the same level of negative as the super PAC,” asserts Wilson. “They realize that the fig leaf is off—and they're using the same kind of messages, just as hard and vigorous.”
Traditionally, there have been risks associated with going negative. “One of the reasons you don’t generally see a lot of negative ads in primaries is that it can be a murder-suicide,” says Kenneth Goldstein. “Think of Gephardt versus Dean in the ‘04 Iowa caucus. You might end up helping a third candidate, like Kerry and Edwards, in that case. But this is now seen as a two-person race—Romney versus Gingrich—and so there seems to be less to lose.”
martes, 31 de enero de 2012
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