2019年11月5日 星期二

On Politics Media Watch: Election 2019 Ad Wars

We have live results for today's elections, and a total for this year's ad wars: $74.2 million.

Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your guide to the day in national politics. I'm Nick Corasaniti, your host on Tuesdays for our coverage of all things media and messaging.

It's election night 2019! We have live results pages posted for competitive governors' races in Kentucky and Mississippi and Virginia's legislative elections. Here's what to watch for.

While you wait for the numbers to roll in, read on to learn about the millions of dollars that have been spent on these races. We're covering the ad wars — and the meme wars.

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The $74 million off-year ad war

An off-year Election Day sometimes catches voters by surprise.

But for those of you who live in areas with competitive state and local elections, your evening newscasts and Facebook news feeds have been crowded for months with political ads. A total of $74.2 million has been spent on television, radio and digital advertising in 2019 state, local and ballot question elections, according to Advertising Analytics, an ad tracking firm.

Often, President Trump is the gift that keeps on giving for political advertisers on both sides of the aisle. Republican candidates and campaigns have clamored for that supportive tweet from Mr. Trump, and they often ape the president's advertising style to appeal to his base. Meanwhile, mere mentions of the president can rile the Democratic base into action.

But in surprisingly competitive governors' races in two red states, Kentucky and Mississippi, the Democratic candidates are taking a completely different tack: Ignore the president at all costs.

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Scenes from ads in the Mississippi governor's race: for Jim Hood, top, the Democratic candidate, and Tate Reeves, the Republican.Hood campaign; Reeves campaign

Andy Beshear, the Democratic candidate looking to unseat Gov. Matt Bevin in Kentucky, has spent more than $4 million on TV, radio and digital ads, according to the ad tracking firm. Of those, just one ad, with $800 behind it, has made a mention of Mr. Trump. On Facebook, Mr. Beshear, the attorney general, has just one ad running on Election Day: It features two self-proclaimed "Trump Guys" who still support the president but are "done with Bevin."

In Mississippi, the Facebook ads for Jim Hood, the attorney general and Democratic candidate for governor, could easily be mistaken for traditional Republican ads if the sound were muted. Mr. Hood's ads open with a shot of the candidate sporting a rifle with a scope, sniping a glass bottle from 250 yards away to show off his shot. He later promises better roads and schools.

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Their Republican opponents are in lock step with the president. Mr. Bevin's most aired ad of his campaign, according to the firm, is ripped from the Trump playbook: It shows images of tattooed gang members, hoping to sow fears of illegal immigration, and says Mr. Bevin is "pro-Trump" even before it says he's "pro-Kentucky." Mr. Bevin spent about $4 million on advertising.

In Mississippi, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, the Republican candidate for governor, spent $6.2 million on television, according to the firm. His campaign relied heavily on an ad that essentially doubled as a defense of Mr. Trump, highlighting times that Mr. Hood had opposed the president. (Mr. Hood spent about $3.5 million on TV, radio and digital ads.)

But neither governor's race was the most expensive this year. That title belongs to a battle in Ohio regarding a possible nuclear bailout, which resulted in roughly $21.5 million in advertising.

As far as we can tell, Mr. Trump was not a factor.

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How to avoid being memed

Illustration by The New York Times; Photo by the White House

In the age of digital disinformation and online shenanigans, we'd like to offer a piece of advice to candidates of all stripes:

Never. Hold. A. White. Rectangular. Sign.

Whatever that sign may originally say, it becomes instant fodder for Photoshoppers, meme-makers and digital scammers to alter. Sometimes it can simply be for some Twitter humor, as President Trump learned early in his tenure when a picture of him holding up an executive order quickly became an endless meme.

In the midst of a campaign, however, it can be a little more problematic.

Illustration by The New York Times, Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Take the State Assembly races in northern New Jersey's 26th District today, where two Republican incumbents are fighting off a spirited challenge from Democratic challengers in what is normally a safe Republican district.

In early October, one of the Democratic challengers, Christine Clarke, posted a picture of herself smiling while holding a "No Fossil Fuel Money" pledge she had signed.

Last week, one of her opponents, Assemblyman Jay Webber, posted an altered picture, replacing the pledge text with invented text claiming that Ms. Clarke and her district running mate supported raising the state income tax by $536 million.

In the comments on Mr. Webber's page, some recognized that the image was a Photoshopped attack by Mr. Webber's campaign, either reveling in or denouncing the chicanery.

But others didn't appear so sure. One commenter lashed out at Ms. Clarke, saying, "What is wrong with you two," and lamenting that more than half of his income went to taxes.

Ms. Clarke's campaign immediately condemned the tactic, providing a side by side comparison on Facebook and demanding that the Webber campaign take down the photo.

With just hours to go before polls close in New Jersey, Mr. Webber's Facebook post remains up.

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