Local Politics

Political Ads Turn Negatives Into Positives

Posted April 16, 2008 5:20 p.m. EDT
Updated April 16, 2008 6:29 p.m. EDT

— Political attack advertisements, often viewed as having a negative connotation, can be positive about candidates, observers said.

The ads, sometimes referred to as "contrast ads," are expected to dominate the television and radio airwaves in the weeks leading up to North Carolina's May 6 primary.

"Polls show the one thing that voters want more than anything else is a leader they can trust. So, trustworthiness is a worthy thing to debate," Democratic campaign strategist Gary Pearce said.

"You've got to give people a positive message. You've got to give them something to be for. But I think you need to go beyond that and say, 'Here are important differences. Here's where we disagree. Here's what you need to know about my opponent,'" Pearce said. "If a 'negative ad,' an attack ad is true, what's wrong with it? By the same token, a positive ad a candidate runs about himself or herself can be totally false. Is that a good thing?"

Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue has vowed to run only positive ads in the coming weeks in her campaign for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Her main rival, State Treasurer Richard Moore, said he's more truthful about the issues.

"We're going to keep pointing out what's accurate and what's not accurate," Moore said.

Although candidates need to walk a fine line in using attack ads so they don't backfire, Pearce said, voters tend to forget the positive messages and remember the so-called negative ones.

"The political graveyards are filled with the bones of candidates who refused to fight back," he said.