Campaign ads turn negative

BY BOBBY HARRISON
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – A week or so ago, almost as if a switch was turned on, television advertising by statewide political candidates went from soothing to stinging.

“Negative advertising unfortunately works,” reflected Marty Wiseman, director of the Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University.

“There have been polls where people say they do not like negative advertising, but then by tracking campaigns it is proven that it does work more often than not.”

Wiseman acknowledges that the reaction to negative advertising depends on which side you're standing. Just about all candidates say it is proper and to be expected to note facts about an opponent's record.

On the flip side, just about all candidates say what is being pointed out about their own record is misleading and unfair.

Currently, candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general are running television advertising on a statewide, consistent basis. And all of those candidates also are the subject of negative campaign advertising.

Bryant vs. Franks
State Auditor Phil Bryant, who is the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, accuses his Democratic opponent, state Rep. Jamie Franks, of reneging on a campaign promise not to use negative advertising.

Franks responded, “I am running factual ads. I am not running negative ads.”

Thus far, Franks has run ads accusing Bryant of failing to perform his auditing duties of properly monitoring construction of the Mississippi Beef Processors Plant, which failed after the state invested $55 million in the project.

Bryant countered in writing, but not in an ad, that it was Franks as a state representative who voted for the questionable venture.

“We are not running negative adds,” insisted Bryant spokesman Mick Bullock. “Our ads continue to be issue oriented.”

Bullock distinguishes between the campaign and the state Republican Party, which has run ads accusing Franks of being a liberal who has supported many national Democrats.

Franks, who touts his conservative position on social issues, such as being against abortion and against gay rights, said, “He (Bryant) could have called the party and had those ads pulled. The state Republican Party and Phil Bryant are one in the same.”

Of the ads from the state party, Bullock said, “We have asked that they be factual in content.”

Barbour vs. Eaves
Of course, the tiff between the lieutenant governor candidates is no worse than that between the candidates for governor – incumbent Haley Barbour and challenger John Eaves Jr.

Barbour campaign spokesman Brian Perry said, “We believe Mississippians should know what kind of person John Arthur Eaves Jr. is before they listen to his false and reckless allegations.When it comes to lawsuits, he will sue anyone to get a huge verdict.When it comes to elections, he will say or do anything to get a vote.”

As a trial attorney, Eaves said he has helped people who have been wronged and had no other place to turn.

Sharon Garrison, an Eaves spokeswoman, said, “Barbour has continually said that he is running on his record. Our campaign features the truth about that record. This race continues to be about one question: who do you serve?

“Mississippians deserve to know the truth about Haley's record of protecting big oil, big tobacco and big insurance at the expense of hard-working Mississippians.”

Barbour has said his record is one of turning the state around economically and pointing it in a positive direction. Eaves sees that record differently.

That is the trick of negative advertising. It all depends on who's seeing it.

Contact Daily Journal Jackson Bureau reporter Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or bobby.harrison@djournal.com.