UPDATED: Corbett and Toomey had twice as many ads as Onorato and Sestak; Sestak: “It shows…a voice of reason can still break through”
By Tom Mulkeen, Contributing Writer
The ad totals for the gubernatorial and senate race in Pennsylvania are in, and according to a Wesleyan University study, the ads for Republicans Corbett and Toomey approximately doubled those which were supporting Democrats Onorato and Sestak.
The study combines advertisements from the campaigns themselves as well as from the controversial independent groups. The total cost for ads in the PA Senate race came in at just under $26 million and the final cost of the gubernatorial race was about $17.5 million. Only the ultra-tight Senate races in Colorado and Nevada had more money spent by independent groups, such as Karl Rove’s American Crossroads than Pennsylvania. About a quarter of the ads that ran in Pennsylvania for both Toomey and Sestak were financed by outside groups. Only 2% of ads run in the governor’s race were funded by outside groups.
Overall though, the impact that independent groups had nationally may have been overstated by the national media. “The initial evidence suggests that while interest groups were aggressive players in the air war, their impact may not have been as negative or as large as initially predicted,” said Michael Franz, one of the study’s authors and an associate professor of government and legal studies at Bowdoin College to Politico.
The gap between pro-Toomey and pro-Sestak ads was the largest of any Senate race in the nation. There were over 21,000 ads that Pennsylvania residents got to see or hear either promoting Pat Toomey or attacking Joe Sestak. Only about 11,700 ads were pro-Sestak. There was also a significant gap between Corbett and Onorato, almost 9,000. Only the gubernatorial races in California and Florida had bigger gaps between the GOP candidate and the Democrat. Both of those elections were largely self-financed by Meg Whitman and Rick Scott, respectively.
“It shows what I’ve always believed, that even in a sea of anger — and in an avalanche of false, misleading ads — a voice of reason can still break through because of the common sense of Pennsylvania citizens,” Sestak told PoliticsPA. “It’s why we came so close, despite being hugely outspent.”
The other major point of the study was how negative the ads were nationally compared to previous elections. Over half of the ads that ran after September 1st were attack ads that made no mention of what the candidate the ad favored supported. Erika Franklin Fowler, an assistant professor of government at Wesleyan and co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project which was responsible for the study told the Washington Post that, “The biggest factor driving negativity is competition.” She believes that because there were so many more close races in 2010 than most midterm elections, the ads became increasingly negative.