I was working on a post about negative attack ads and the recent sweeping comments from Professor Susan MacManus at USF regarding this kind of political advertising: “It could drive down voter turnout.”
Could it, Professor MacManus? There is a wide body of professional evidence and academic research, well-reported in the media, that has shown the link between negative advertising and voter turnout is muddy — at best. What people in political circles will tell you is that negative advertising is used… because it works.
I am surprised that Professor MacManus, well regarded as a leading academic political mind in the Tampa Bay area, would offer such a sweeping statement that is largely untrue.
It is a hard truth of how campaigns work: you define yourself, and you define your opponent. And defining your opponent means, in large part, painting their record in a harsh, negative light. There will always be negative advertising in politics, because negative works, and running for office means two things: you’re running for something, and (usually) against someone else. You have to define the differences.
With all of that said, you can do attack ads well, and you can do them poorly.
Taking a closer look at Bill Foster’s negative attacks against Rick Kriseman, we see that it has been done very, very poorly. Of course, the Mayor has done a miserable job of the first step — defining himself — too. But this is about negative advertising.
Though Kriseman’s endorsement from the Times was nice — and particularly critical of Foster — it is worth pointing out miscues in items like the “Know Your Candidate” piece that just ran on the two candidates don’t help when the attack ads start. Rick has lived in St. Petersburg for 41 years, not 26.
The profile of Rick offered unnecessary criticism of the man’s deceased father, and went out of its way to highlight criticism from Democrats who had already thrown their support to Foster. One of the unfair criticisms against Kriseman is that he has been to divisive, too political. His campaign, it is reported, is “heavily funded by the state Democratic Party”. This is not true. They state party pays the salary of Cesar Fernandez, the campaign manager, and has held fundraisers for Kriseman — but to say it is heavily funded by the state party is misleading. Cox and Puente could have worked an awful lot harder to note that it is Foster who is receiving support from local Republican officials, who was endorsed by the Republican governor of the state.
And now has the state Republican Party sending out mailers on the mayor’s behalf.
On one side of the Republican Party of Florida mailer is the former House Majority Whip, Representative Jim Frishe. Jim’s quote is:
“I served alongside Rick Kriseman in the Florida House. If Rick had depended on the grades he got from the organizations responsible for protecting small business and creating jobs, he never would have gotten out of high school.”
Rick went to Boca Ciega, but now I am very curious about what high school Jim Frishe went to.
Because according to Project Vote Smart, in 2008 and 2009, Rick scored 100% from the Florida AFL-CIO. In 2008, he scored an 85% from the Associated Industries of Florida. That’s four less than Jim Frishe got in the same year. Rick scored an 80% from AIF the year before, and in 2008, he scored an 85% from that bastion of liberalism, the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
The Florida Republican argument against Rick is pretty weak, and, it is worth pointing out, largely untrue.
The other mailer out today from Mayor Non-Partisan himself is from an electioneering organization with heavy ties to the Florida GOP called “Accountability in Government”. T’his one pulls out a favorite gimmick of mine from Republicans who have dominated the legislature for years, now. They worked it on Bill Heller a few years ago. It involves a little Legislature 101, but follow along.
Their first citation that Rick “opposed cutting his own pay three times” was from 2010. A few years prior to that, the Legislature voted to cut their pay by about seven percent. During the 2010 session, a bill was introduced to cut Member pay by another seven percent. But the Republican who came up with this bill didn’t do his homework. See, what he says he “didn’t know” was that around four percent of the seven percent cut from the previous year was carrying over to the next year. They had, in effect, passed not a seven percent cut, but an eleven (or so) percent cut. Now this guy approaches his Democratic colleagues again with a procedural vote to take back the pay cut bill… or a re-vote on the bill, which would then be a “no” vote.
So now Democrats vote to not to cut their pay. And Accountability in Government has material for a flier.
Too bad it’s a bunch of crap.
Apologies to Susan MacManus, but the negative works because we’ve gotten so good at it. It works because we let it. It works because when we fight back, that gets called “negative,” and the cycle continues.
Rick has a plan for St. Petersburg. Don’t let the negative stuff stick.