A Bitter Taste of Things to Come

Is Pennsylvania Another General Election Preview?

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Evan Tracey Evan Tracey
A few weeks back, I wrote that political pundits and junkies alike should pay close attention to the special election in the 14th Congressional District of Illinois for a preview of the general election ad wars. You can now add the Pennsylvania primary contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to this list.

The reason for this is largely due to the last-minute shift in the tonality of the ads. Senator Clinton's campaign is now using a combination of ads in opposition to Senator Obama. In one ad, voters are shown expressing distress over Obama's suggestion that people cling to religion and guns because they're bitter. The second ad uses his own claims about oil industry campaign donations against him. With these ads, Clinton's campaign is attempting to make the final days leading to the Pennsylvania primary about character traits rather than the issues.

The Obama campaign has obliged this war of words by responding with ads of its own referring to Clinton as a "typical Washington politician."

With ad spending likely to approach $10 million in just the final 10 days, the voters of Pennsylvania will witness a personality contest dominated by ads comparing and contrasting the candidates less flattering attributes. Sure sounds a lot like a general election to me.

The Democratic primary winner will find himself or herself in an ad war in which each side creates a caricature highlighting the respective opponent's less flattering character traits and lack of patriotism, capability and/or viability. So think of the Pennsylvania primary as spring training for the Democrats.

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Evan Tracey is the founder and chief operating officer of Campaign Media Analysis Group, a TNS Media Intelligence company. See his complete bio.