Welcome to campaign attack-ad season

Campaign 2014 | A majority of this year's political TV ads focus on criticizing opponents
by Angela Lu Fulton
Posted 9/23/14, 09:37 am

Nothing marks the beginning of fall in an election year like Pumpkin Spice Lattes and incessant campaign attack ads. With six weeks to go, candidates have been clawing for the spotlight—from donning chicken suits to holding opponents responsible for double homicide—as pollsters try their best to predict the next victor.

As the fight for the Senate intensifies, candidates are increasing the number of negative campaign ads, with 55 percent of ads solely focusing on criticizing the opponent, according to a study by Wesleyan University. Positive ads made up 27.5 percent, while 17.5 percent of ads contrast the two candidates. In the gubernatorial races, the rate of negative ads has jumped by 20 points since 2012, from 23 percent to 43 percent. Studies have found that voters remember negative ads better than positive ones, but only time will tell how this strategy will translate at the polls.

Here’s our weekly roundup of election news, focusing mainly on toss-up races:


In one of the most-watched Senate races, Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst brushed past Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley in this week's Quinnipiac poll of likely voters, 50 percent to 44 percent. Previous polls had Braley ahead as the two lock horns in an expensive TV ad battle that has cost a total of $13.8 million so far. While outside groups have poured in money for both candidates, Braley has spent $2 million more on ads attacking Ernst’s conservative views. She has responded by labeling her opponent as an out-of-touch Washington insider.


Another Quinnipiac poll placed Republican Cory Gardner eight points ahead of frontrunner Democrat Sen. Mark Udall, causing both camps to fight over the methodology behind the aberrant numbers. Most polls have the candidates neck-and-neck, and while Democrats claim this poll is an outlier, Republicans say Gardner’s lead is increasing as approval ratings for President Barack Obama slip. A Suffolk University/USA Today poll found 56 percent of Colorado residents disapprove of Obama.

North Carolina

Neither incumbent Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan nor her contender state Rep. Thom Tillis have captured the “faith-driven voters,” according to a poll by American Insights. Faith-driven voters make up a third of North Carolina’s voters, and yet only 38 percent believe Tillis represents them well, with 26 percent believing Hagan represents them well.

Tillis claims Hagan, who sits on the Armed Service Committee and chairs the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, has not done enough to fight the terror group ISIS. TheWashington Free-Beacon reports that Hagan may have skipped a Feb. 27 closed-door hearing on ISIS in order to attend a fundraising dinner in New York City that night. While attendance records for the hearing are not public, she missed an Armed Services Committee hearing earlier that morning.


Former Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love could become the first Republican African-American congresswoman this November as she leads Democrat contender Doug Owens by 12 points in an August poll. The contenders for the 4th Congressional District have aired mainly positive campaign ads thus far, tackling the problems without directly using each other’s names. Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney will hold an October fundraiser for Love, a fellow Mormon, as well as making appearances in her commercials.


Police reports reveal Paul Davis, the Democratic contender for Gov. Sam Brownback’s job, was at a strip club in 1998 when police raided it for drugs, according to Politico. Davis, who has led in most polls, claims his boss had taken him to the club because the owner was one of their legal clients, and was merely “in the wrong place at the wrong time.” According to the police report, the then-single Davis was “in a somewhat compromising position … in a back room of the club.”

Angela Lu Fulton

Angela is a senior reporter for WORLD Magazine and a part-time editor for WORLD Digital. She is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute and Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Angela resides in Taipei, Taiwan. Follow her on Twitter @angela818.


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