Campaign Ads Zero In On Wisconsin

This story was written by Ashley Niedringhaus, The Marquette Tribune

As countdown to Nov. 4 draws closer, it seems almost impossible to turn on your television without hearing Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls John McCain and Barack Obama "approving this message."

But Wisconsin viewers, particularly those in Milwaukee and Green Bay, may be bombarded with more political campaign ads than other cities across the country.

As a state, Wisconsin has ranked as high as sixth among key election states in TV spending by the candidates, according to the University of Wisconsin Advertising Project. The study also showed that Milwaukee and Green Bay were two of the top four cities in the countrycoming in behind Las Vegas and Denver.

Ohio was the leading state in terms of combined ad spending of both candidates with Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan and Virginia rounding out the top five.

According to the ad project, all of McCain's ads in Wisconsin and other highly contested states,contained attacks on Obama. In contrast, about a third of Obama's ads attacked McCain. With Wisconsin being such a closely contested state, both sides are fighting for Wisconsin's 11 electoral votes.

Matt Lehrich, deputy communication director for Obama's Wisconsin campaign, and Kirsten Kukowski, communications director for the Republican Party of Wisconsin, both stressed the importance of Wisconsin's electoral votes in the race for the White House.

"It's hard to imagine a candidate winning the White House without winning Wisconsin," Lehrich said. "Wisconsin was won by less than one percent of the total vote in the last two major elections."

In the previous two presidential elections, the fight for Wisconsin has been a tight battle.

In 2004, Democratic candidate John Kerry won the state by 0.38 percent. In the 2000 election, Democratic candidate Al Gore won Wisconsin's electoral votes by 0.22 percent.

"(The close margin of victory in 2000 and 2004) makes Wisconsin one of the best-case scenarios for McCain to flip a blue state to red," Kukowski said.

"Whoever wins Wisconsin will have a very good chance at winning nationally," Lehrich said. Both Lehrich and Kukowski said that there is a good chance we will see McCain and Obama back in Wisconsin before Election Day.

But all the mudslinging in the ads is leaving some voters upset and disinterested.

Forest Franzoi, a Marquette University senior in the College of Communication, said the negative ads did not have any impact on how she will cast her vote.

"All the ads do is insult the other party and do very little to tell me why I should choose a certain candidate based on what they are going to do to improve our country," Franzoi said. "I am not interested in how many different ways you can bash each other."

Lehrich, who was unable to comment on the direct impact of either McCain or Obama's negative ads, said he did not believe devoting nearly 100 percent of the ads to negative messages, as McCain has done, would work.

Lehrich and Kukowski both said that one of the main goals of such ads is to help voters understand the main differences in the candidates. But Lehrich added that there is a time and a place to discuss those differences.

"People are interested in talking about the issues and how a candidate can help them," he said.

Franzoi agreed, saying, "Tell me what you are going to do to make America better. That's what people care about."

Kukowski defended the negative ads citing the difference in experience between McCain and Obama.

"There is no hiding who John McCain is," Kukowski said. "Obama is new to the politicallandscape so it is more important to get out there and show the country who Obama really is."