Well, I’m back from spending the last week in the Washington DC area. And you’d have to live under a rock to not know there’s a big election going on: Maryland has a gubernatorial race is electing a new Senator; Virginia’s got one of the closest Senatorial races in the country, with Bushbot George Allen vs. former Sec. of the Navy – turned pissed-off Dem Jim Webb (“Born Fighting — GRRRR!”).
And gosh golly are there a lot of negative ads. In MD’s Senate race, Republican Michael Steele is running as hard as he can away from President Bush, trying to present himself as a maverick outsider, independent from standard-issue GOP nuttiness and bad old tax-n’-spend Democrats. And his ads are pretty good — he’s a good talker on his own behalf, and he slams his opponent Ben Cardin on having taken special interest bucks. Problem is … Cardin has him dead to rights on supporting Bush, and says so in his ads. So all in all, it’s a fair race: negative ads abound, but they seem to deal with a basic issue that’s pretty fair game: The candidates’ respective independence from special interests or the President.
The Maryland governor’s also has plenty of negative advertising, but it’s also generally on a substantive level. Incumbent Republican Governor Bob Ehrlich criticizes his Democratic opponent, Mayor Martin O’Malley of Baltimore, for presiding over a violent city (true) and not bringing murder rates as much as promised (also true); of course, those problems precede O’Malley’s tenure, and the murder rate has gone down somewhat. In one spot, O’Malley uses the Wal-Mart smiley face turning to a scowl, to criticize Ehrlich for opposing a bill that would have required Wal-Mart to pay for its employees’ health care. In others, he associates Ehrlich’s policies with Bush’s.
The VA Senate race between the GOP’s George Allen and Dem Jim Webb is considered quite nasty, and at least Webb has quite a bit to work with, between Allen’s infamous bigotry and seedy finances; Allen, for his part, runs kind of a weird ad, beginning with his daughter leaping into his arms — then immediately proceeding to bash Webb for supposedly being a tax-raiser.
This is all pretty harsh, but has to be considered above board. By comparison, as the WaPo has pointed out, Healey’s ads are really scraping the bottom. The DC area has three very harsh campaigns going on, but criminy, no one’s actively trying to make people afraid of being raped. Yeah, we’re different here in MA …