This year’s best political attack ads

IN statewide politics, the ad’s the thing. If Shakespeare were alive today, he’d be out there pitching for Coca-Cola or some pol or having his words co-opted.

At least that’s the conventional wisdom.

I was buoyed by recent letter writers who said voters should read the upcoming ballot measures for themselves and study the candidates’ statements instead of making up their minds on the basis of 30-second attack ads.

I agree. And our editorial board has spent a lot of time doing just that. You can find our recommendations on our website (see Election 2010 and click “Special Section” for a list of Our View endorsements) and look for more recaps Sunday in the newspaper.
But if you can’t beat them, you join them. So here’s my quick look at effective TV ads. They get my two levers up rating:

1. The Schwarzenegger-Whitman echo. It starts with Arnold saying: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Then it shows Meg Whitman saying the exact same thing (except she says “hoping for different results.”) The ad goes on, with Whitman parroting Arnold’s worn-out cliches, including: “I don’t owe anyone anything,” “We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem” and “We need to run it like a business.” The ad ends with an excerpt from our sister newspaper, the San Jose Mercury News: “We tried that. It didn’t work.” Very effective.

2. Meg’s life story. New ad shows the GOP candidate for governor and her husband, and in a voiceover she says when she moved to California 30 years ago, “anything was possible in this state.” With some polls showing she’s trailing by 13 points, it comes off as a little desperate. But more ads like this instead of what I call her platitudes ads (“Let’s get California working!”) would’ve helped her. After $140 million of her own money, voters still don’t know who Meg Whitman is. One caveat: Brown’s ad folks trumped her by running a counter-ad using her own words against her. The ad shows a TV image from the ad and when Whitman says “You know 30 years ago, anything was possible in this state” a text appears that reads: “Who was governor 30 years ago?” After a short pause, the words “Jerry Brown” appears, followed by how he “cut waste” and “got rid of the governor’s mansion and the limousine” back when he was governor from 1975-1983. Ouch.

3. New anti-incumbency ad against Barbara Boxer. “It’s the day after the election, Nov. 3, 2010, and Barbara Boxer is still in the Senate. Nothing has changed.” The ad goes on to suggest that voting for incumbent Barbara Boxer would continue the same old congressional gridlock and back-room shenanigans. Very effective. I’m wondering why the GOP in California did not use this direct but effective message more often. Perhaps they didn’t want to come out for “change.”

4. Simple choice: Yes on Prop. 20/No on Prop. 27 radio ad. My favorite of the election season. You hear a husband and wife talking while poring over the voters’ guide about how “there are a lot of propositions to study.” The wife says: “Yes, but I think there is one simple choice: Yes on Prop. 20.” He says: “So the commission draws fair districts for Congress… and the politicians will finally have to compete for our votes. … So yes on 20 gives power to the voters, not the politicians. I guess that is a simple choice.”

Honorable mention: Kamala Harris ad showing Steve Cooley saying he’ll take his new salary and his retirement pension if he wins the AG spot; the handsome Gavin Newsom standing in front of a pristine beach with white caps on the Pacific in the background talking about protecting the Golden State’s environment; Treasurer Bill Lockyer giving his “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” meets Rodney “why can’t we all get along” King speech to a jaded, partisan, dysfunctional Legislature.

There’s more. A lot more. But you only have to stand it for four more days. Until then, the mute button is your friend.


This entry was posted in environment, land use, Pasadena by Steve Scauzillo. Bookmark the permalink.

About Steve Scauzillo

I love journalism. I've been working in journalism for 32 years. I love communicating and now, that includes writing about environment, transportation and the foothill/Puente Hills communities of Hacienda Heights, Rowland Heights, Walnut and Diamond Bar. I write a couple of columns, one on fridays in Opinion and the other, The Green Way, in the main news section. Send me ideas for stories. Or comments. I was opinion page editor for 12 years so I enjoy a good opinion now and then.

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