Washington Update - October 3, 2022

Billy Moore    Dc2

With five weeks of campaigning left until Election Day and three weeks until early voting begins, candidates have no time left to unleash their most powerful attacks on their opponents if they plan to negatively communicate to voters. 

Attacks ads have been widely broadcast in the race for governor between incumbent Republican Greg Abbott and Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke (Governor Abbott first aired an ad against O’Rourke nearly a year ago, before O’Rourke announced his candidacy). The candidates are hitting each other over crime, the border, abortion, and guns. The pair repeated their criticisms in a Friday night debate that probably drew a minimal audience.

Governor Abbott is also being attacked by the “dark money” group Coulda Been Worse that has spent over $7.1 million on television advertising and has booked another $4.7 million over the next five weeks. The group’s most recent spot lays the blame for a panoply of Texas problems on Governor Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. The group’s name comes from Governor Abbott’s early assessment of the massacre at Uvalde.

In the key three congressional races in South Texas, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Congressional Leadership Fund are airing ads against the Democrats, criticizing 15th District candidate Michelle Vallejo as a dangerous liberal, 28th District Representative Henry Cuellar as “gone Washington,” and Representative Vicente Gonzalez for representing criminal defendants in court.

Democrats are going after Gonzalez’s opponent, Representative Mayra Flores, for her vote against bipartisan gun legislation that passed Congress in the wake of the Uvalde massacre.

Negative ads are most effective when the attacked candidate fails to effectively respond, leaving voters to believe the accusation whether it is true or false. More often, the accusations and responses leave voters confused about the truth, sometimes depressing turnout.