Thursday, October 28, 2010

Political Ad-Sanity

I don't know about you, but I have nightmares about Rand Paul, Sharron Angle and Jerry Brown as a result of the onslaught of political ads on television these past few weeks. And, with less than a week to go, there literally isn't enough time in the day on some television stations to meet the demand for political advertising.

The din of democracy must have the Founding Fathers rolling over in their graves! TV Ad Week, a trade publication, estimates that $2 billion dollars will be spent on political ads that air on local television stations throughout the country. And, in many cases, they have generated a great deal of buzz among possible voters. The 2010 midterm elections appear to be this year's break out hit "Reality Show."

Elections will be held for 37 Senate and 37 Gubernatorial seats, and the entire House of Representatives, 435 seats. No one seems immune from the reach of political advertising this year. This is especially good news for TV stations that were clobbered by the economic downturn and are now making out like bandits. Especially since TV Ad Week estimates another $1 billion will be spent on so-called "issue" advertisements.

No doubt reflecting the polarization of the country, many campaign commercials have taken on a more negative tone this election year. In fact, there is a consistency in messaging across the country for candidates from each party. "ObamaCare is socialized medicine,” a Republican claim, while many Democrats say that their opponents want to "privatize Social Security."

What is most alarming it the trend toward personal attacks. For instance, one ad attacked Rand Paul for "worshipping the god Aqua Buddha," while another questioned how Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid earned his wealth. There is no such thing as "you went too far" in political advertising.

Of course, political advertising has gone viral, and it is paying off big time for Internet companies. Whether on TV or on You Tube, candidates want a message that breaks through the political noise and connects with voters. The results can be a bit outrageous.

For instance, West Virginia's Democratic candidate for the Senate, Joe Manchin, fired a bullet through "Obama's Cap-and-Trade Bill." Nevada's Republican candidate for the Senate, Sharron Angle, has an ad that shows evil looking young men when complaining about Senator Harry Reid's position on immigration. Pennsylvania's Democratic Senate candidate Joe Sestak, holding a bag of dog poop, compares cleaning up after his dog to cleaning up his opponent's economic mess.

Polls indicate that most Americans say they are against negative ads. In fact, a recent Rasmussen poll shows that 58% of those surveyed said they would “vote for the other candidate” because of a negative poll. But political consultants know that negative ads do work. And these ads can be a decisive blow in a close race. One pundit quipped, “Every dollar spent on a positive ad is wasted!”

Come Wednesday the intensity, the insanity, of political advertising will go into hibernation. Viagra and Tums will return to prominence, a welcome relief. But, with the explosion of media outlets across all platforms, and the increasingly enormous amounts of money pouring into political campaigns, get ready for the 2012 elections!


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Read Before Voting

With the midterm elections one week off, it appears Republicans will take control of the House of Representatives and come close in the Senate. While such an outcome would be bad news for the Democrats, it could also trigger a fight for control of the Republican Party between traditional party members and the "Tea Party" wing.

The Republican leadership is so confident of a sweeping victory that they have already shifted their focus on to the 2012 presidential election. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell bluntly told the National Journal, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” So defeating President Obama is more important to Republicans than "jobs, jobs, jobs" and improving the economy. It is more important to Republicans than immigration reform, the threat of terrorism against America, its burgeoning deficit or its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Republicans have the "Tea Party" to thank for a large part of their success this midterm. The newly constituted Republican Party will populate Congress with some very interesting characters, to put it mildly. The good news is that it will be a windfall for stand up comedians.

But most Americans may not be laughing when they come to realize exactly what's on the Republican agenda. Of course, the newly constituted Republican Party will want less government. For instance, they want to privatize Social Security, Medicare and Veteran's care. They also want to end the federal minimum wage.

Republicans will immediately push to overturn Health Care Reform legislation passed earlier this year. This would free health insurance companies to deny coverage to people with "pre-existing" conditions, deny coverage for those who lose their jobs and to deny coverage to 30 million Americans who do not currently have health insurance. It would mean an end to controlling health care costs. Health companies would again be able to rapidly raise premiums and exclude their coverage to all but the healthy and wealthy.

Republicans will want to deregulate banking and financial companies. Important financial reform legislation passed by Congress would be overturned freeing bankers to return to their old ways of making money. Remember how that movie ended last time?

Republicans probably couldn't do much to undo the help President Obama gave to the American auto companies now that they have found new life and are adding jobs. And the GOP will not be able to get back "Stimulus" money that went to preserve tens of thousands of jobs across the country and help states through their financial crises. But Republicans would try to shut down the Department of Education, and shift the responsibility to the states. So much for America achieving uniform educational outcomes.

Republicans will want to extend to all Americans the Bush Tax cuts, scheduled to lapse at the end of the year, even though it will add $4 trillion dollars to the deficit over 10 years. Of course most Americans agree with President Obama that the cuts should apply to only to the first $250,000 of an individual's income. That would reduce the impact on the deficit by $700 billion over the next decade. But the Republicans want to make sure the rich get every penny possible to avoid class warfare.

Of course, a few dozen of America's richest oilmen, bankers and business leaders have been anonymously pouring record amounts of campaign money into the GOP, targeting close races and underwriting continuous attack ads. One Republican called it carpet-bombing and sniper attacks.

But for Republicans, victory in one or both houses of Congress will mean increased responsibility. It will mean they will have to actually declare specifically what their legislative agenda is for next year. It will likely also ignite a fight for control of the party between the center and the far right. These factors will open up opportunities for Democrats and make Senator McConnell's one stated goal, the defeat of President Obama, impossible in 2012.

Go San Francisco Giants!

One year ago July, Zoe and I were given the opportunity of a lifetime by San Francisco Giants' president Larry Baer.

Susan and I eloped at San Francisco's city hall in 1984 immediately following the Democratic Nation Convention. Susan and I were covering the convention for CBS News.

In July 2009 I arranged to take Susan and Zoe to San Francisco for a twenty-fifth wedding anniversary celebration. I contacted a former CBS colleague of mine, Larry Baer, who is now president of the San Francisco Giants. He arranged for me to buy three second row box seats right next to the Giants dugout.

The night before the game Susan was recalled to New York by CBS News to produce an instant "Michael Jackson Special" on the singer's life and very sudden and suspicious death. So Zoe and I attended the game, along with our friend Mark Larkin. We all ended up sitting in the front row for several innings.

Suddenly, in the middle of the fourth inning, the scoreboard revealed the following message, "Happy Anniversary to Joe and Susan Peyronnin from Your SF Giants!" I was able to capture and email Susan a picture of the scoreboard. What a thrill for all of us.

So this is a brief explanation of why I, a lifelong and much suffering Cubs fan, am pulling for the Giants to win it all. I have seen Willie Mays, Willie McCovery and even Bobby Thompson play in Wrigley Field. What a great tradition.

We are big fans of Larry Baer, the Giants organization and beautiful San Francisco. Go Giants!

Friday, October 8, 2010


This one hits home!