Negative television and Internet attack ads have been especially prevalent in the Wisconsin Senate election between Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson. Baldwin and Thompson have thrown punches at each other through YouTube and television ads.
The ad tracking firm Kantar Media CMAG reports that 92 percent of Senate ads in Wisconsin during the month of September criticized the opposing candidate instead of promoting personal platforms.
In the most recent ad produced by Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, a conservative political group founded by Karl Rove, Baldwin is criticized as being “too extreme for Wisconsin” while a clip of a fired-up Baldwin declares, “You’re damn right!”
Anti-Thompson ads have also been widespread. Democrats call Thompson an “influence peddler” who has prioritized lobbyists and money interests over the people of Wisconsin and say he “changed” when he began making money in the private sector.
The overwhelmingly negative tone of advertising in the election has not been well received by students, said David Tukesbrey, a senior in the College of Communication.
“I can’t stand the smear tactics and the ‘he said, she said’ campaigns,” Tukesbrey said. “I’ve seen these ads up on YouTube and I just want to skip through them as fast as possible because it’s the same meandering every single time. It’s like, ‘Well Tammy Baldwin does this, oh yeah, well that’s B.S. because Tommy Thompson, he’s the better guy.’ … I’m getting tired of it. It is a pain in the butt to listen to and watch and it’s just exhausting, and I’m just not a fan of it.”
The negative tone of the Senate race’s promotional material has not been lost on the candidates themselves. Thompson was asked about negative advertising during an appearance at a Milwaukee Press Club Newsmaker Luncheon on Oct. 5, where he expressed disappointment and said the bitter ads did not reflect his personality.
“I’m very sad about the negative ads,” Thompson said. “I’m a positive guy. I’m optimistic.”
Thompson fully blames his opponent for the negativity of the election.
“Congresswoman Baldwin has had not one positive ad,” Thompson said at the luncheon. “Not one … Not one positive ad. Why? Because she hasn’t done anything.”
Baldwin has not yet commented publicly about the negative publicity generated during this election.
As a voter, Laura Irvine,a junior in the College of Communication, said she believes the number of negative ads is offensive.
“Negative ads are many times an insult to the intelligence of the electorate,” Irvine said. “The ads don’t provide answers or solutions to the issues we face – they simply tear down the opponent. We deserve better than this. Candidates should lay out their plans and stand on their own records.”