Thursday, September 22, 2005

Ad Wars

By F. T. Rea

It's a shame Virginia voters will not see the two major party gubernatorial candidates Democrat Tim Kaine (on the left) and Republican Jerry Kilgore in a face-to-face debate setting as much as we might like -- at this writing Kaine and Kilgore are scheduled to have only one debate televised statewide. Which may mean political advertisements will play a larger role in determining the outcome of the election than many observers might believe they should. That can turn an election into a fundraising contest in which issues take a back seat to image-making and image-destroying.

That lone televised debate, sponsored by the University of Virginia Center for Politics and moderated by Larry Sabato, will take place on Oct. 9. Instead of a series of face-offs, to see if either thinks well on his feet and which one is better at keeping his sense of humor under stress, etc., we get another tedious, lowbrow edition of Ad Wars. Without a number of debates with each devoted to a specific area of interest, with follow-up questions, viewers of that one event are most likely to get fed a steady dose of talking points.

Furthermore, it appears the GOP kingmakers are convinced their man needs to be kept under wraps and carefully controlled. He looks nice enough in his tropical sunset orange shirt in those commercials, but can he speak effectively without a script?

Sadly, at this point both camps are running negative ads on TV, and we've still got weeks to go. Which seems to me to be more dangerous for Kaine. Doesn't it undermine his rose-tinted image of being a decent, missionary-helping-kids-in-the-Third World kind of guy? If Kaine begins to seem just as willing to travel the low road as Kilgore it could soften his base.

Whereas, most of Kilgore's hardcore supporters already know he's a weasel. They like him for that.

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