NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Election Connection

September 21, 2012

Attack of the TV ads

Unless you’re very skillful with your Tivo, you were likely introduced this week to just how nasty the congressional race in the Massachusetts 6th District has become.

Both sides recently debuted negative ads on local network television — a tried and true political strategy, local experts say.

“Negative ads are very effective. Negative ads are so powerful they brought down the Massachusetts Miracle,” said Rob Brown, a Salem State communications professor, referring to the well-timed Willie Horton ad that helped sink former Gov. Michael Dukakis’ presidential campaign in 1988.

Both political and communications experts concluded that, while neither ad is particularly noteworthy, both have a clear and easy-to-understand message. One depicts Republican Richard Tisei as “too extreme,” and the other strongly implies that incumbent Democrat John Tierney can’t be trusted.

“They are not very edifying and aren’t going to educate the voter much, but they are simple and effective,” said Timothy Sherratt, a political science professor at Gordon College.

Tierney’s attack ad shows images of tea party flag bearers Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, then follows with an image of Tisei with quotes aiming to link him with their ideology.

“Tea party Republicans and Richard Tisei — what it is, is too extreme,” the female narrator says.

The ads against Tierney aren’t from Tisei’s campaign, but made and paid for by the Young Guns Action Fund — a conservative super PAC affiliated with vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

The YG Action Fund’s ad hits on the congressman’s family issues. With a smiling Tierney as the backdrop, it informs voters about the illegal offshore gambling scheme run by his brothers-in-law, and about his wife’s jail sentence for helping to file fraudulent tax returns for her brother. The ad includes audio of Tierney’s brother-in-law claiming the congressman “knew everything” about the gambling enterprise.

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