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Expert says attack ads are losing traction

Ads like this one at, are not moving voters, political insiders and observers suggest.

Ads like this one at, are not moving voters, political insiders and observers suggest.

If you're sick of negative campaign ads, take heart. A recurring theme at a conference of campaign professionals, political scientists and journalists Friday was how ineffective many attack ads proved in Florida and elsewhere in 2008.

"Maybe we saw the day the negative ad died," said GOP pollster David Hill, noting numerous races where barrages of nasty TV spots failed to move poll numbers. Many consultants may dismiss him as a wimp for that theory, but he said, "I think the negative commercial has become cliched and doesn't have the same effect."

Unless the ad offers some useful information to voters, he and others at the University of Florida's Political Campaigning Program conference agreed, voters increasingly dismiss it.

Democratic pollster Dave Beattie recounted how the Democratic National Committee couldn't understand why his client, Suzanne Kosmas, wouldn't bash Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney of Oviedo as corrupt because of his ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Kosmas' winning campaign criticized Feeney's record, but his polling showed the corruption charge would not sway voters.

"When you start calling someone a name, it's harder to break through," said Beattie.

Is it Obama vs. Clinton II?

One story line to keep an eye on as the 2010 Democratic primary for Senate develops: Obama vs. Clinton, the sequel. Bill Clinton headlined a fundraiser in Miami for U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami, who is running and backed Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, we hear a lot of enthusiasm from President Obama's money folks in Florida for state Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, who endorsed Obama.

Cutting GOP expenses

Newly re-elected state GOP chairman Jim Greer says he's doing what Florida families are doing: Cutting back. Greer, who has taken heat for lavish spending, is taking away party credit cards from people who don't need them. He also is "significantly" cutting travel budgets, axing about five jobs, has closed the party's Tampa office, and plans to hold fundraisers at less-expensive venues when possible. Jets are out; prop planes in.

He would not say who is losing a credit card and if that includes presiding officers of the state Legislature. Some Republicans have grumbled about spending by former Speaker Ray Sansom, R-Destin, who oversaw House races (and by all accounts did a good job beating back the Democratic wave seen nationally).

Bennett's 'Political Connections'

The unpredictable St. Petersburg mayoral race stands to be one of the best political stories of the year in Florida. Check out Political Connections on Bay News 9 today at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m., when mayoral candidate and City Council member Jamie Bennett lavishes praise on outgoing Mayor Rick Baker.

What would Jeb say?

Rush Limbaugh may be among the leading vitriolic voices in the national GOP, but Charlie Crist favors a decidedly kinder tone. Last week, Crist showered praise on Obama and Bill Clinton: "God bless him for reaching out," Crist said of Obama meeting (to little effect) with Republicans on the stimulus package. He also said he sought out Clinton in Miami earlier this month to discuss ways to jump-start the economy. "I just wanted to say hello to him and see what's on his mind. He's so bright and gifted and gracious with him time."

Alex Leary contributed to this week's Buzz.

Winner of the week

Jim Greer: Fresh off his re-election as Florida Republican chairman, he scored another win Friday when Michael Steele was elected as the first African-American Republican National Committee chairman. Greer endorsed Steele when he was an underdog, and served as his whip during the vote. Not only does he have an indebted friend at the top of the RNC, but last week Ray Sansom's step down as House speaker has diminished a huge cloud over the state GOP.

Loser of the week

Rick Baker: The popular Republican mayor of St. Petersburg, in his final year in office, looked like a serious contender for statewide office if the right one opened up. But Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink opted to seek re-election, as did Attorney General Bill McCollum. Suddenly, a cushy administrative job at St. Petersburg College is surely looking more appealing to hizzoner, as Baker's future political prospects dim.

Expert says attack ads are losing traction 01/31/09 [Last modified: Saturday, January 31, 2009 9:28pm]
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