Saturday, April 12, 2014

Behind the Ad: Slinging the mud in Florida's 19th Congressional District

By Richard K. Barry

Who: The Lizbeth Benacquisto campaign (special election)

Where: Florida's 19th Congressional District

What's going on: GOP freshman Trey Radel resigned back in January after being arrested for purchasing cocaine from an undercover agent. The GOP primary to fill this very safe Republican seat will take place on April 22nd. In the running are state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, businessman Curt Clawson, and former state Rep. Paige Kreegel.

Earlier in the week, Benacquisto came out with a new ad, spending "nearly six figures," according to a campaign source, the entire remaining television budget for her campaign.

In the ad she says "[m]y opponents and liberals are spending millions smearing my name, even attacking my family, with false, negative ads. But I won’t back down from this fight.”

According to one media source:
The race for the Republican nomination for the 19th Congressional District seat has turned into a decidedly negative affair, with hyperbolic accusations and character assassination floated freely in television ads, mailers and news stories bombarding Southwest Florida voters.

They also say that there is little difference on the issues, so the race has become a personality contest. 

Another assessment  indicates that:
Benacquisto, Clawson and Kreegel have all attacked each other, with Benacquisto attacked for being "liberal" and an ex-Democrat; Clawson as an uncaring businessman who laid off workers and drove his company into bankruptcy; and Kreegel as a "win-at-all-costs conniver" who has violated election laws.

Smart money suggests it will be either Benacquisto or Clawson, and then whoever wins the GOP primary will surely win the general election on June 24th.

David Wasserman at the Cook Political Report writes that it could "easily be nominated for the ugliest race of the year," although the year is young. 

Grade: This is one of those ads that is difficult to assess out of context. Roll Call describes it as both positive and defensive, which I think is accurate. The interesting thing is that it brings up the question of how to respond to attacks without repeating them and also without necessarily climbing into the gutter. Again, without a complete sense of how ugly things have become, I'd say it's as effective as possible. It's interesting that her campaign spent its remaining television budget on this piece. I'm not completely sure it will do the job if her opponents have some late attacks in mind that would need to be countered. B-

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