The 2014 cycle has been an interesting one so far. For example, Republican Senate candidates are normally the ones who end up embarrassing themselves, but not this time. That’s a shocking development in and of itself. Also shocking is the degree to which Democratic Senate candidates and their allies have resorted to absurd attack ads this far out from election day.
Senator Mark Begich (D., Alaska) was recently forced to pull an inflammatory ad falsely linking his GOP opponent, former state Attorney General Dan Sullivan, to a gruesome murder, after the victims’ family expressed outrage at not being consulted and accused Begich of exploiting a tragedy for political gain. This was an embarrassing misstep for Begich, who was thought to be running a solid campaign, thanks in large part to his efforts to distance himself from President Obama.
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In Arkansas, incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor is running an ad falsely accusingly his GOP opponent, Representative Tom Cotton, of supporting the Ebola virus in the midst of a deadly epidemic. The ridiculous ad was demolished on a recent episode of MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
Senator Kay Hagan (D., N.C.) is airing ads that use Democratic activists posing as ordinary citizens making incomprehensible complaints, such as: "Under Thom Tillis’s leadership, they’ve cut textbook funding so much that I can’t help my son with his homework."
Meanwhile, environmental fundamentalist billionaire Tom Steyer's self-funded Super PAC has been running false and misleading ads against GOP candidates across the country. Political experts don't really know what to make of the unusual ads. Some have described them as "bizarre" and unlikely to be effective.
"Good ads communicate with people and don’t yell at them," a former Clinton strategist told POLITICO in August. "These ads yell at people [and] they’re not believable. They’re not going to create a relationship between the viewer and the ad."
The overriding strategy seems to be trying to replicate the 2012 strategy of attacking Mitt Romney as a heartless vulture capitalist who literally kills people by injecting them with cancer, though it seem unlikely to achieve the same success given the nature of midterm elections, and the fact that most Obama voters will be too busy watching John Oliver clips to go out and vote in November.