Raleigh, N.C. — Pity the poor U.S. Senate candidate.
It's a nasty business being on the receiving end of slings and arrows from not only your opponents, but third-party groups bankrolled by often undisclosed donors."I'm Kay Hagan, and you've seen a lot about me lately," the incumbent Democrat says in her campaign's latest U.S. Senate commercial, which began running Thursday. "Out-of-state special interests are spending millions distorting my record."
Meanwhile, House Speaker Thom Tillis, Hagan's Republican challenger, takes aim at Hagan for her ads that attack the state lawmaker over state education funding.
"One of my first elections happened in a public school – president of the PTA," Tillis says in his ad. "Sen. Hagan's ads don't tell you that. Her whole campaign is built on falsehoods."Yes, this is a campaign commercial decrying negative ads that itself is going negative.
While those of us who are deluged with news releases and campaign ads of all stripes might be tempted to say, "Oh, toughen up," there might be some strategy behind the woe-is-me messaging.
"We've had two elections in a row with just huge amounts of money spent on ads," said Carter Wrenn, a veteran Republican political consultant.
Many of those commercials have been negative, and that's wearing on the electorate, Wrenn said.
"It's driving up people's dislike of politicians generally, and people have a healthy dose of skepticism about anything they see on television to do with politics," he said.
Wrenn said that both Hagan and Tillis may be trying to ride that wave of skepticism. The message of the ads, he said, are "Those mean ol' politicians are attacking me."
Although both Tillis and Hagan are politicians in their own right, they're trying to separate themselves from the fray.
Wrenn said polling from the past year shows that voters "don't like all the howling and finger pointing. They don't mind debating the issues; they just don't like the mess."
Tillis and Hagan are using these latest ads to convince voters that they're not part of the mess.