Candidates May Increase Negative Ads

By: Lisa Ferrari
By: Lisa Ferrari

October 10, 2005

In Sunday night's gubernatorial debate we got a glimpse of the political daggers Republican Jerry Kilgore and Democrat Tim Kaine are going to be throwing at each other as election day grows closer. Political experts say in a race as tight as this one for Virginia governor, you can expect the attacks to keep coming.

Attack ads and political jabs are part of the race, especially one as tight as this one. The polls show that Kaine and Kilgore are neck and neck, and it is possible that a negative campaign might sway voters.

Last night Kilgore continued to paint his opponent as a liberal, while Kaine portrayed Kilgore as a person who is not suited to lead the state.

"They both tried to pin their opponent in a corner, to try to paint [the other] in a negative way," said Matt Smyth of the UVA Center for Politics.

"Whether Kaine is a 'liberal' or Kilgore is 'mean spirited' is up for debate," said Sean O?Brien, Sorensen Institute.

The debate moderator Larry Sabato challenged the candidates to run a clean campaign. He asked them each to pledge to keep 50 percent of their ads positive.

Kaine agreed and Kilgore did not. However, political experts say determining what is negative is hard to do.

"It's hard to say 'well was this one just funny and making a point or was this one substantive, but had a negative tone?'" said O'Brien.

Whether you think it's negative or not, expect political ads to get harsher soon. It's one way candidates can point out reasons why voters should not cast their vote for their opponents.

"The kind of ads that you don't want to see are the personal attacks, where it loses its civility," explained Smyth.

The truth is, we like the political sparring. Negative ads get the voters' attention a lot faster than the positive ones.

"It's going to be competitive. It's going to be close. There will be some negative, but we hope it stays at the level that Virginians expect," said Smyth.

Both Kilgore and Kaine started airing negative ads six months ago. Usually candidates save the attack ads for the end of the race. It's one indication that things could get a lot worse.

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