Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Bombs Away!

The most alarming story of the week is my colleague, Larry Eichel's , discovery that the national Republican and Democratic campaign committees have reserved $16.1 million worth of advertising time on Philadelphia TV stations in the month leading up to the Nov. 7th election.
The National Republican Campaign Committee has set aside $8.4 million to defend three of its vulnerable congressional incumbents in the area: U.S. Reps. Jim Gerlach, Curt Weldon and Mike Fitzpatrick.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has set aside $7.7 million on behalf of the challengers: Lois Murphy, Joe Sestak and Patrick Murphy.
If all the money is actually spent -- and that depends on how hot these races remain -- do you know what that translates into? About 7,400 commercials.
And this total doesn't include the commercials that will be booked by the candidates themselves or by other advocacy groups.
So, here's my piece of advice to residents of the Philadelphia Media Market. Duck!
This is the political equivalent of saturation bombing. And you are the target.
Some of the TV minutes -- excuse me, make that hours -- will be devoted to pumping up the candidates. But, if the past is a guide, most of the money will be spent on attack ads, designed to either (a) turn you against an opposing candidate or (b) make you so sick of the pols and their ways that you stay home on Election Day.
Either way, we are in for a vicious, nasty October on television.
Thank God, I've got TIVO.
Actually, this may be worth a study by social scientists.
It's axiomatic that all political advertising is essentially alike. It uses the same format, graphics and language. Ditto for negative ads. I wonder, given the volume of advertising, if it will all just melt in our minds into an oozing, odiferous, indistinguishable black mass?

I think it's also time to remind you of my Sleazy Award, given each election season to the slimiest, dirtiest, low-down, kick-below-the-belt ads aired on TV or sent via the mails.
For some reason, the Republicans have dominated the Sleazies in recent years, but I'm sure they'll get some competition from the Dems this year. By the way, here is my definition of what qualifies as sleazy from an earlier column I did on the topic:

The Sleazy is reserved for the media campaigns that engage in the lowest, dirtiest tactics in the election season.The prize - a lovely statuette of a snake with a forked-tongue, rising from a swamp - isn't easy to win. Routine bad-mouthing of your opponent won't do it. Heck, that happens all the time. Calling him or her a radical won't do it. That's a love tap. Mere negative ads won't win one. You have to be ready to go over the top. I'm talking gross distortions. I'm talking outright lies. I'm talking bona fide Grade A sleaze.

Keep an eye out for candidates for Sleazy awards and email me details at tferrick@phillynews.com. Better yet, send me links to the stuff and I'll post them here.

4 Comments:

Blogger normajean said...

When I read that over $16M was going to be spent in the Philadelphia market for three seats I felt sick. You don't even mention all of the commercials for governor, senator or other positions. With all of the worthy causes that are desparate because of the lack of funding, to spend so much on a political campaign is absurd and disgraceful. This should be a rallying cry for all elections to be paid for by public funds - this will put every candidate on an even playing field, eliminate undue influence of candidates and spare the public from these incessant, unnecessary commercials - do they have any real effect anyway? But I guess that is too radical a thought.

12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem with public funding of campaigns is that the Supreme Court has ruled that a candidate can't be restricted from spending their own money on their campaigns -- it s a matter of free speech.

As a result, wealthy candidates will go above and beyond the public financing, increasing the number of millionaires in Congress and other political officers above what they alreay are.

2:51 PM  
Blogger rasphila said...

This is really alarming news. Normajean has got it right: what a huge waste of resources. I will be on the lookout for Sleazy Award nominees.

6:06 PM  
Blogger AJ Lynch said...

Who cares about the money Tom? It's too inside baseball for me. But I told you that before and you seem obsessed with it.

I think Weldon (my rep) is goofy and over the top but his opponent wants to increase the family tax credit from $3,000 to $7,000!
Why don't you write about that? Suggset you ask Sestak where he will get that without raising taxes?

5:41 PM  

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