The 'Hatred Parade' Of Hagan And Tillis
“Tar Heeled and Feathered” is the headline of a report released Thursday.
No, it’s not about any scandal at Chapel Hill.
Instead, the study from the Center for Public Integrity focuses on new dubious distinctions for the U.S. Senate race between Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis.
There was a time when you could turn on your TV and not hear these four words - Kay Hagan, Thom Tillis.
But that was long ago.
"If you are a North Carolinian your eyeballs are probably burning right now," says Dave Levinthal, the Senior Political Reporter at the Center for Public Integrity. He and his team are behind the “Who’s Buying the Senate” website. They have been tracking political ad buys, and who’s bankrolling them nationally throughout this election year.
With the Hagan-Tillis race among the handful determining control of the U.S. Senate, everyone knew North Carolina would be flooded with TV ads financed by outside groups.
Nobody expected this kind of deluge.
North Carolina is home to the most expensive Senate race in the country. $54.4 million to buy airtime for 90,000 ads. Georgia ranks second and they’re well behind, by $17 million. They’ve also seen 32,000 fewer ads.
There is one category Levinthal tracks where North Carolina ranks squarely at the bottom. Civility. "Make no mistake there are a number of very nasty, even brutal Senate races being waged across this country," says Levinthal. He points to particularly nasty contests in Iowa, Kentucky, Alaska and Colorado. But, he adds, "none of them are nastier than the one going on in North Carolina."
As measured by sheer volume of negativity, Levinthal calls it the "hostility parade."
He and his team gave extra attention to the political ads aired in races across the country last week. They looked and listened for tone and message.
Classic attack ads are easy to spot. Their basic formula is "Candidate X is bad because of Y" plus some ominous music underneath. But Levinthal notes they aren’t the only negative ads out there. "There are also contrast ads which include some sort of positive message about one candidate but also have some elements casting the opponent in a very negative light."
Levinthal tracked the 10,800 Hagan-Tillis ads that aired last week. All but 20 "had at least some sort of negative content or negative message."
That’s not the only low point. Those 10,800 ads? That, too, was a record says Levinthal. "We haven’t seen any other Senate race in the country that’s had 10,000 TV ads in a single week."
With just over a week before the election and with early voting already underway, Levinthal wonders "what’s it for, haven’t most voters made up their minds?"
It’s a fair question especially given this particular ad blitz.
There are, of course the undecided, people who wait until the last second before they throw their support behind either Tillis or Hagan. But they are an unreliable bunch since they may just decide to skip this midterm election overall.
Which is why political scientist Michael Bitzer believes this negative ad blitz is really a get out the vote campaign. "It about reaching your base voters with the topics of concern."
Historically, angry voters are more likely to vote. And in a race as close as Hagan-Tillis, every one of them will be key.