The public and the candidates repeatedly express frustration with the negative campaign ad, 30 or 60 second television spots inevitably designed to distort opponents weak spots, shot in black and white for increased effect and repeated over the airwaves again and again ad nauseum.
So why do campaigns continue to create these monstrosities? Unfortunately, they work.
Empirical evidence shows that negative campaign ads move the polling results more quickly than positive ones. So as a campaign winds down to the end, especially if it’s close, these advertisements proliferate.
So that’s one reason why the gloves have come off in the Trump versus Cruz “cage match.” With just a few points separating them in some polls, both sides have resorted to sharp attacks on the other. In a sentence, “the knives have come out.”
However, this is Trump territory, and no one is going to win a trash-talking or trash-advertising contest against him. Cruz’s one foray, an attempt to tar Trump by accusing him of “New York values,” backfired big-time with the New York Post putting the banner headline “Drop dead, Ted,” on its home page. And Trump got to trumpet the city’s recovery from 9/11, causing even Cruz to applaud that response in a recent debate.
The birther issue may become even more potent. The real meaning of “natural-born system” has never been litigated by the courts and Cruz’s birth in Canada has let Trump use it against him with an insidious effect.
And, in a statement with wide consensus, Trump has noted that Cruz “doesn’t have any friends.” Everyone in the Senate hates Cruz, and the Republican establishment has even come around to supporting Trump as a result.
The basic lines of attack have now been opened and expect each campaign to stick to those talking points through the next 10 days. Both sides will accuse the other of political calculation, of not being a true conservative, and they will probably beat each other to a tie over the issue. Then, perhaps, the campaign in Iowa will end the same way it began, with the issue of immigration taking front and center stage.