The Battle for America 2010: Have Floridians Had Enough of Negative Campaigns?

Back in August, a National Review article asked, “Will negative ads prove counter-productive in Florida this year?” Their answer: “Voters are EXHAUSTED with the negative ads. This might be something building down there. Anyone without a real message other than attacking their opponent may not get any traction with voters.”

Two months later, as we turn onto the homestretch and debates take to the airwaves, negativity is still the main theme of candidates in both the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races, and the battle cry to berate the other guy seems to have gained, rather than lost, momentum.

In last week’s U.S. Senate debate, the first televised debate of the season, Charlie Crist (I), Marco Rubio (R), and Kendrick Meek (D) relentlessly took shots at each other, often pairing up against one and then switching to pair up against the other. Rep. Meek and Gov. Crist unofficially teamed up in an attempt to dismantle Marco Rubio from his front-runner position, both attacking Rubio as a right-wing extremist. Then with dizzying speed Crist sided with Rubio against Meek for his liberal bias, while Meek and Rubio fired away at Crist for flip-flopping on issues and being a political opportunist. Ironically, the major flip-flopping was really in the antics of all three candidates, focusing more energy on blasting their opponents than on offering up their own solutions for the troubled state, which currently has an 11% unemployment rate and cries out for answers.

Meanwhile the governor’s race has been no different. In the first of their own televised debates on October 8, Rick Scott and Alex Sink took the gloves off and came out swinging, each accusing the other of ethical transgressions in their past careers. With the tenacity of a bulldog, Sink continues to pound on Scott’s HCA, Inc., $1.7 billion Medicare fraud scandal, as Scott attacks Sink’s CFO record and accuses her of mishandling funds in a major bond-sale transaction to Bank of America.

So with all of this redundant negative campaigning still alive and well, has the prediction that it will turn voters off come true? Are voters fed-up with the negativity, or are they responding to it? The answer is yes, and yes.

In a recent story in the American Spectator, Larry Thornberry writes, “Negative campaign ads, where candidates paint their opponents as all-purpose knaves and scoundrels in the most lurid terms, are all over the airwaves. Floridians weary of them.”