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Right Cross, Left Uppercut: Television Advertising and Candidate Characterization in Nevada

Posted by on Sep 2, 2010 in Blog | 0 comments

     Tea Party favorite, Sharron Angle, rode a wave of voter anger to sweep the Nevada Republican Primary with an impressive 41% of the vote. The next two runners up, Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian, receiving 27% and 24% respectively. Her handed victory over more well-known Nevada establishment candidates signaled a rally that has been taking place in many primary elections across the nation this cycle that reflects a wave of voter anger against the current political establishment landscape. Interestingly, this is a party reversal on  the same themed wave that the Democratic Party has been riding to win elections for arguably the past few cycles. Many of Angle’s televised primary ads reflected this motif, whether put forth by her campaign itself, or third party actors. Take for instance, three examples of Sharron Angle primary television advertising. Using wise tactics and understanding the likely victory of Harry Reid in the Democratic primary election (Reid eventually would win the Nevada Democratic Primary with 84% of the vote), all three ads mention Reid and pit Angle as the best choice voters have to take on establishment candidates in the General Election. In fact, the first example, a video produced by Club for Growth PAC, is aptly titled, “Best Choice.”


Into the General Election, this narrative continues:

            As of September 2nd, the media page on Angle’s campaign website
displays six videos of television ads—all six of these are anti-establishment ads targeting Harry Reid directly. Interestingly, the Reid campaign has begun to attempt to harness similar voter anger and turn it against Angle. The Reid campaign has attempted to paint Angle as an outsider. It is an interesting advertising play that fits Angle directly into the mold that the Angle campaign wishes to fit Sharron Angle in …. Except to the extreme. The idea is to capitalize on the anger that swept Angle into office in the first place and use it to push her further to the periphery. By characterizing Angle as an extremist, the Reid camp is able to portray her as out of the mainstream and out of touch with the wishes and needs of Nevada voters.

                Similar to Angle’s website, the Reid campaign main page displays four video ads, three of these attacking Angle outright. Clicking the video tab takes you to a similar scenario. (The video page) is stocked with video ads that paint Angle as an extreme candidate; many titled appropriately– “Angle Extreme & Dangerous Education Agenda” and “Sharron Angle: Just too Extreme,” are among the more direct video titles.

     Whether this advertising strategy is successful will be determined in part by the results of November’s General  Election. But one thing is for certain, the desired effect of television advertising in characterizing campaign opponents in Nevada is panning out. According to Rasmussen Reports, “The U.S. Senate race in Nevada remains very close. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state shows Democratic Senator Harry Reid and his Republican challenger Sharron Angle tied with 47% of the vote each. Five percent (5%) prefer some other candidate, and two percent (2%) are undecided. “ (Wednesday, August 18, 2010) (This Narrative is enforced by previous polling) “Earlier this year, Reid was considered to be one of the Senate’s most vulnerable incumbents. He picked up just 39% of the vote following Angle’s primary victory but has seen his own numbers improve to 41% in late June, 43% in early July, 45% in late July and 47% today.”

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