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Politics / Issues

Tampa Deluged With Political Ads Before RNC

When Mitt Romney comes to Tampa for the Republican National Convention, he’ll be speaking to a local audience that’s been inundated – not just with rain, but with an unprecedented number of political ads.

According to the Washington Post, more money has been spent on political ads in Tampa Bay than any other media market except for Charlotte – host of the Democratic National Convention.

Here’s an idea of what that means: in one hour of the 5 o’clock news recently, there were 10 negative political ads.

Now, imagine these ads not just on the nightly news, but on The Bachelor…and Rachel Ray…and the Rays baseball game.

AND…imagine it coming at you nonstop for 10 months.

That’s life in Tampa.

Retired truck driver John Latham says he’s sick of them. I talked to him while he was eating some fried clams at Taste of Boston, across the bay from where the Republican National Convention will be.

“This guy downing this guy, this guy downing that guy, you know? That’s stupid,” he said.

James Knight agrees. I caught him braving a summer rainstorm to fish off the pier outside.

“We would waste our money to do all this campaigning, when you still got people on the street that can’t find a place to stay or something to eat. So it’s kind of weird to me,” he said.

Then, a small woman rides by on her bike, somehow balancing her bait-bucket and her fishing pole.  She gives her name only as Amanda. She says he does lawn care.

She describes her reaction when she sees a political ad

“Another one? (laugh) Another one interrupting my TV show?” she said.

“Honestly, it’s like always on the TV. Look, can you quit for ten minutes? Let me watch something?”

A Campaign Ad Experiment

If you live in one of the 40 non-swing states, you may have missed these ads. But you folks in Nevada, Colorado, Ohio, North Carolina and a few others – you feel our pain.

We’re all part of an unprecedented experiment. Never have so few been exposed to so much political advertising for so long.

No one thinks the ads affect them. But if not, why are they spending so much?

Erika Fowler, director of the Wesleyan Media Project, says negative ads do change attitudes, even if people don’t think they do.

And even though the economy is more important…

“The most important thing to remember about political advertising is that it matters at the margins,” Fowler said. “Certainly in a close election cycle, the margin really matters.”

Especially in Florida, where 537 votes put George W. Bush in the White House.

Mutual Assured Destruction

Fowler admits, the more ads we see, the less effective they are. But neither side can stop.

“ It’s an arms race. In an arms race, the worst possible thing would be to be outgunned,” she said.

It is political mutual assured destruction.

Them Fowler reaches for another metaphor.

“You know, the Florida Market is going to be inundated from now until election day.”

Knight used a similar simile.

“Yeah, you got all this money coming in, like a tsunami,” Knight said.

And how will our Tampa residents vote?

-          Knight supports Obama…but he’s a felon and can’t vote.

-          Latham says he’ll hold his nose and vote for Romney.

-          Amanda says she never votes because it doesn’t change anything.

That’s the one thing all this negative advertising is guaranteed to do, according to the researchers – make people disgusted with politics

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