In an election year where many political commercials resembled movie trailers in production value and targeted impact, the U.S. Senate candidates in Nevada are delivering some of their final messages via television ads.
Republican Sharron Angle released what she called her "closing ad" last Thursday. It carried the GOP message of the fall: Efforts by President Barack Obama and Sen. Harry Reid to deliver change instead have produced misery, and "now it’s our turn."
As of Friday, Reid had not indicated a commercial message as his deal-closer. During the week, he released several television ads. The themes echoed his campaign-long mantra that Angle’s positions are "extreme."
In the most recent ad that was released on Friday, the incumbent stepped up the criticism a notch and made it more personal: In contrast to his standing as a "fighter" for Nevada, she is a "pathological" liar about Reid and where she wants to take the country.
Of course, written descriptions can’t do justice to the tableau of sounds, colors, images and editing techniques that are crucial to determine the effectiveness of the ad.
Rich Hanley, graduate journalism director at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., said most candidates want to convey a message that will stick with voters as they enter the booth: "If you vote my opponent, your lives will change negatively."
— Steve Tetreault
Political Eye asked Hanley to critique several of the late ads.
On Angle’s "Our Turn" ad: Hanley said the commercial, which is dark and foreboding and presents messages of economic despair against a background of cracked glass, "has a certain horror film trailer aesthetic to it in the way the images were quick cut and the sense of menace that accompanies each piece of information."
"It certainly grabs your attention as a good movie trailer would, but with a caveat that it’s way over the top. It would be more laughed at, or shrugged off, than actually be effective. It looked like it tried too hard to paint menace."
On Reid’s "Sharron Angle’s Nevada" ad: "Angle’s commercial was about menace, and this one is about fear," Hanley said.
At various points and to an eerie tinkling piano soundtrack, it depicts an empty playground swing, a casket being carried to a grave, and CityCenter going dark, all the supposed consequences of Angle’s positions.
"It shows a casket and essentially says if Angle is elected you are going to die of cancer," Hanley said. "In the advertising world, sex and death sells and this one goes straight to death."
Hanley said the Reid spot was more effective.
"It really hits what he is trying to hit," he said.
On Reid’s "Running" ad: Hanley said this commercial sets out to contrast Reid and Angle in direct and personal terms. Through various techniques, its message is that Reid is a good guy and Angle is unhinged.
In bold block lettering it associates her with the word "pathological" — twice.
The ad "looks cluttered in places," Hanley said. "As it makes its case against her, it loses its visual coherence."
The images that reference Angle are crackly and tinted blue, and the spot recruits video of commentator Jon Ralston saying Angle "twisted the truth" and has done so "this entire campaign."
By contrast, Reid is bathed in sunlight as the narrator says he "worked his way up and never forgot who he is fighting for." He is shown with happy people, and it ends with Reid, his arm around his wife, Landra, walking among Joshua trees.
"This could be his closing commercial," Hanley said.
— Steve Tetreault
The votes haven’t even been counted and the reputedly moderate Brian Sandoval is already distancing himself from Tea Party Republicans, at least as far as his election night party is concerned.
While far-right U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle, anti-tax pledge signer and 3rd District Congressional candidate Joe Heck and other Republicans are gathering Tuesday at The Venetian, Sandoval has plans to spend the evening 20 miles away at Red Rock Resort.
The fact the Republican nominee for governor isn’t planning to spend election night with fellow Republicans has prompted political observers to suggest it’s evidence of a coming rift between the establishment faction of the party that’s tight with Sandoval and the Tea Party faction fueling the energy behind Angle’s challenge to Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.
"He ran a very separate campaign. He is staying out of what could be a coming ugly fight," Eric Herzik, a professor of political science at University of Nevada, Reno, said of Sandoval.
During the primary, incumbent Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons won support from Tea Party activists, but Sandoval nevertheless cruised to the nomination.
While Angle celebrated her primary victory in Las Vegas on June 8, Sandoval partied in Reno with a group that included Republicans for Reid Greg Ferraro, a Sandoval adviser, and Reno Mayor Bob Cashell, who made critical remarks about Angle during the event that made their way into a Reid commercial.
Also present was Sandoval mentor state Sen. Bill Raggio, who barely defeated Angle in a bitter primary race in 2008 and endorsed Reid in the U.S. Senate race. Another Sandoval mentor who clashed with far-right Republicans and spoke to the crowd at Sandoval’s primary party was the late Gov. Kenny Guinn.
"That is symbolically very interesting," University of Nevada, Las Vegas political science professor David Damore said of Sandoval’s decision to host his own election night event.
Damore said given Sandoval’s old guard connections it’s no surprise he wouldn’t be close to Angle.
And if both Harry Reid and Sandoval were to win, it’s likely the new governor would need all the help he could get from Washington, D.C., given Nevada’s state budget woes.
Even if Angle were to win, as a newcomer she wouldn’t be in a good position to deliver much help to the next governor.
"At the end of the day, Reid is going to do more for him than Angle would," Damore said.
To make unraveling the entangled relationships more complicated, if Sandoval wins he will have defeated Democratic nominee Rory Reid, son of Harry Reid, who Sandoval may be working with depending on the outcome of the U.S. Senate election.
— Benjamin Spillman
Contact Steve Tetreault at 202-783-1760 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact Benjamin Spillman at 702-477-3861 or email@example.com.Political Eye blog
• Sharron Angle’s "Our Turn" ad
• Harry Reid’s "Sharron Angle’s Nevada" ad
• Harry Reid’s "Running" ad