Thursday, August 10, 2006

Won't someone please think of the attack ads?

I asked Monday who was ready for the attack ads to begin in this year's governor's race. Two days later, Alabama got an answer.

Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley repeatedly has assailed Gov. Bob Riley's record on the campaign trail in recent week, so I thought her side would be first out of the attack gate. But Riley surprised me Wednesday by firing the first televised salvo of what looks to be a vigorous attack ad season. The spot stays true to the template, complete with scoffing references to U.S. Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and John Kerry, D-Mass., and a derogatory mention of the word liberal, on average, every 4.3 seconds.

Baxley replied with a reminder of Riley's failed $1.2 billion tax plan: "Being called liberal by someone who proposed the largest tax increase in Alabama history is like being called fat by a hog." It should be noted here that Baxley voted for the package in 2003, but that was before a few more years of demonization finished their efforts to obliterate the memory that the plan actually would have reduced most people's tax burdens, so the prevailing meme must carry the rhetorical day.

The saddest part of the mudslinging is that both candidates have the ideas and ability to run positive, constructive campaigns if they choose. Riley's turn toward negative campaigning is particularly baffling and unfortunate, considering that he's way ahead in the polls and that, in all likelihood, he could coast to victory simply by relying on a pretty good record as governor.

But that's a risk Riley couldn't afford to take. After all, if he were able to win a statewide race with a purely upbeat campaign, other politicians might start getting the idea that they could, too. Just think of all the starving attack ads that would cause.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't believe those polls that show Riley way ahead. Riley's smart enough not to believe them either. By the time November rolls around, the Democrat/AEA axis will have pumped so much money into Lucy's campaign it will be incredible.

5:28 PM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

The margin probably will narrow as the election draws nearer, but Riley's consistently up by double digits right now in every poll I've seen.

It's also unlikely that he's worried about losing the money race. Riley has a big financial edge now, and even if the AEA and other traditional Democratic backers fill Baxley's coffers for the fall campaign, Riley's contributions from business donors will match or exceed that amount.

Considering all of those factors, I don't know why Riley would opt to be the one who turned the TV race negative when he could have staked a much stronger claim to the high road by withholding the attack ads until Baxley aired a negative spot first. Maybe it's unease over the unfriendly electoral atmosphere for Republicans nationally, or maybe his internal polling shows something the public hasn't seen yet.

7:05 PM  
Blogger Sheila said...

I'm with you on surprise at Riley's ads. Being called a "liberal" is like being called a child molester in this state. As a Yellow Dog Democrat, I'll be voting for Lucy, especially now, but I happen to think Riley has done a competent job and has not been an embarrassment to the state like some governors.

8:59 AM  

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