Research has shown that negative campaign ads positively effect elections for those that issue them, yet almost all voters say they detest such ads. It's a conundrum during every election season, but during the 2010 midterms in which the primary motivator is anger at incumbents the decision to rely on fire hoses of mud is dominant. In the California gubernatorial campaign, Democratic Candidate Jerry Brown takes advantage of this tendency among the voters by hinting at the failings of the previous administration (Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger's), but focusing on his own successes during his two terms as Governor of California in the late 70's and early 80's (He is able to run for a third term because the 2 term limit does not apply to public officials who served prior to 1990). The ad opens with his opponent Meg Whitman saying that "30 years ago anything was possible in this state" later she says "I mean its why I came to California all those years ago." It's an incredibly convenient statement for Brown who was governor of California at 30 years ago giving his staff the opportunity to use the Republicans' tactic of taking America back to its strongest time and use it to promote him- a Democrat. The irony is strong enough to actually be funny.
The ad claims that when Mr. Brown was Governor of California he cut waste and balanced the budget, he made 4 billion dollars in tax cuts while maintaining a world class education system, promoting clean energy, and created 1.9 million new jobs. I don't know how truthful these statements are, but Brown's platform during the 1980 Democratic Presidential Primary emphasized the balanced budget amendment and solar power in the wake of the oil crisis and the 3-Mile Island accident. The 1.9 million number is probably skewed a bit too because the US economy did very poorly in the first few years of the 80's. That economic crisis may have led to Brown's failure to gain the California senate seat after he ran for that office instead of a third term as governor. I'm sure Brown was not the perfect governor; however, any bad decisions he made during that time have dimmed in the public memory and a large percentage of voters can't remember them at all.
In most performances (which a commercial is) the audience tends to remember the last thing they see best, and then the first thing they saw, followed by everything else. Seemingly acknowledging this point Mr. Brown's campaign staff go after the issue that every voter is concerned with: jobs. They end with the vocal statement "Jerry Brown, knowledge and know-how to get California working again" and the words "Let's get California working again" on the screen. If they can convince voters that Brown is the candidate with the best chance to bring California out of the recession there is no doubt that he will win.
The advertisement is the most brilliant I've seen this campaign season, combining the public's tendency to like candidates more if they avoid negative mud-slinging and also very subtly using the best tool of 2010: the perceived failings of the preceding administration. The best part of the ad is the ability to take his primary opponents words and instead of making her sound either evil or stupid as many candidates have done this year; he makes her support him. It's to bad such opportunities don't present themselves to often as many voters would prefer to be pounded day and night with this thirty second piece than with most of the ads we're seeing this year,which are making the the personal injury attorneys seem rather less slimy by comparison. This ad is hardly doing poorly for Mr. Brown who leads in the polls according to Rasmussen 49% to 45%.