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As congressional race heats up, so do the campaign ads

The U.S. congressional race between Republicans Mike Simpson and challenger Bryan Smith has been a heated one, and their campaign ads have been drawing criticism from some voters who think their campaign ads are too negative.

These days you can’t turn on the television, listen to the radio, or even watch a YouTube video without one of the two candidates’ campaign ads popping-up, each one taking little jabs at his opponent instead of focusing solely on his own platform.

Political historian Dr. Ron Hatzenbuehler said negative campaign ads didn’t become popular until the 1960s.

“With the negative ad, overall, the tendency for people who believe in them is to say, ‘If I could put doubt in somebody’s mind and keep them from voting, I won’t change their mind, but at least I will remove that vote from my opponent,'” Hatzenbuehler said.

During this past campaign season, both Simpson and Smith released numerous campaign advertisements, but only between two to four television ads were considered positive. This means the ads were focused solely on the candidate and did not mention the opponent.

So with each candidate spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on campaign ads, the million dollar question is whether or not negative ads really work to help a candidate get elected.

According to Hatzenbuehler, the jury is still out on that one, but it has worked for some candidates in the past. Either way, he said most of the time candidates have a pretty good idea of who will be voting for them on election day. These ads are actually targeting a specific market of independent voters they believe can still be swayed.

“The hope is there are still independent voters out there who aren’t swayed or inclined one way or another, and maybe you will affect one or two of them,” Hatzenbuehler said.

In two separate interviews, both Simpson and Smith claim their opponent’s claims in all of those ads are false or misleading.

Smith’s ads are commonly noted for accusing Simpson of being “too liberal” and one ad claimed Simpson voted against cutting funding for the left-wing group called ACORN.

Instead, Simpson’s record shows he voted 28 times to defund ACORN.

The list of accusations continue on both sides, with Simpson’s campaign also taking a few jabs at Smith.

“All of them (the ads against Smith) are either false, misleading or deceptive,” Smith said. “Every single attack ad he has on me fit one of those categories.”

“No, he’s not right. We are very careful as to make sure we look at everything we put in our campaign ads. Is it OK for us to go and point that out to others? You bet it is. He might not like it, but it’s the reality,” Simpson said.

Hatzenbuehler said we have always seen campaign ads in whatever form they have taken since the beginning of American politics, but perhaps we are just more aware of them now due to social media being an integral part of any election along with the gargantuan amounts of money candidates are spending on their campaigns.

While there might not be any right or wrong in this situation, one candidate will still walk away with the most votes after Tuesday’s election and head toward the November ballot to face Democratic candidate Richard Stallings.

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