Be glad you don't live in Ohio. It's a fine old state with pretty towns, friendly people and a fairly healthy economy. But over the last six months, its citizens have endured a volume of political advertising unequaled in the history of Western civilization.
To watch the local television news, as I did in Columbus last week, means sitting through as many as six campaign commercials in a row. More than 58,000 presidential campaign ads ran in the state during the last month, according to a Bloomberg News study. And it's not even certain that the ads are having their intended effect.
"I think it's going to be a colossal waste of money on both sides," John G. Geer, a political scientist at Vanderbilt University who has been trying to measure the impact, told me. "These ads aren't having much effect on the public's preferences."
But effective or not, the ads are still interesting — for what they tell you about the campaigns' strategies as much as what they say about the candidates. For those who aren't watching television in one of the dozen or so battleground states, here's the best and worst of what you're missing. (You can find links to these ads at latimes.com/campaign2012.)
Best positive ad,
Best positive ad,
Most effective negative ad, Obama: "My Job." This one was easy. The Obama campaign plays the audio of Romney's dismissal of 47% of Americans as moochers with no sense of personal responsibility — over images of people who don't look like moochers at all. It's effective because the only words are Romney's.
Most effective negative ad, Romney: "Right Choice." This midsummer ad accused Obama of "gutting" welfare reform by offering to allow states to relax work requirements in experimental projects. Former President
Most deceptive ad: Plenty of candidates on both sides. An Obama ad says Romney wanted to keep 30,000 troops in
Late-breaking slugfest: In dueling ads this week, Romney charges that Obama "took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy, and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in
Celebrity smackdown: Choose your stars. The conservative American Crossroads group has deployed
Special political celebrity award: Bill Clinton. The former president charges that Romney's economic platform "is what got us into trouble in the first place." It's the same message that Obama's been pitching, but when Geer showed it to independent voters, they found it more believable when Clinton said it.
Most artful commercial: No award. Political advertising is one of America's gifts to the world, like jazz and the blues, but this year's ads haven't contributed much to the art form. There's been a silly ad — the Obama campaign's commercial naming Big Bird a menace to America (to make fun of Romney's promise to stop funding
But the only ad I've seen that pushes the creative envelope is from an independent conservative group,
For the most part, this year's final burst of commercials has been negative, polarizing and often unfaithful to the truth. The spots have tried to hit voters' hot buttons, but they haven't offered much real information. They've been long on fear and short on hope. Most of the time, they haven't given voters a positive reason for voting either way. And they surely haven't built much of a mandate for the candidate who wins.
Just like the rest of the campaign, I guess.