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This is a long-standing mantra in elections: all politics is local. But the advertising wars in the race for the governor of Virginia show that the national is the new norm.
The battle between Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat and former governor of the state, and Republican Glenn Youngkin, in a competition held to be the leader for the mid-term of 2022, has fueled more cultural issues that are currently fueling national politics than traditional points. tensions such as state and local taxes.
The list of the most broadcast advertisements includes attacks on abortion (although Virginia has no current law or challenging abortion rights) and schools (amid national debates over curriculum, critical race theory, and mask requirements).
In a costly race with a personal campaign still limited by the pandemic, national issues on air are setting the tone. According to AdImpact, an ad tracking firm, the two candidates have jointly spent over $ 36 million on television ads, at just over $ 18 million each. Outside teams and supercomputers have largely been left out.
According to AdImpact, over 60% of spending was spent on ads that have at least some negative comparisons or attacks.
Four of the five most expensive commercials for McAuliffe’s campaign were negative, with a particular focus on abortion, an issue that has come to the fore in national politics since Texas passed a new law banning nearly all abortion.
The campaign has invested the most in a 60-second ad, which features a hidden camera video recorded by a liberal activist in which Youngkin openly worries about losing “independent voices” on the issue, but has promised to “insult” to restrict access to abortion if Republicans also occupy the government building. McAuliffe’s campaign portrayed Youngkin as an adherent of the conservative fringe of the GOP.
“Glenn Youngkin is caught,” a female narrative voice whispers as news coverage of the video fills the screen. “Filmed on video in which he admits his far-right plans.”
In another ad, McAuliffe’s campaign highlights a doctor who claims Yangkin’s support for abortion restrictions “will harm my patients” and that he is embedding politics in science and medicine, echoing a general criticism of anti-vaccines and anti-masking. movement.
Other national dividing lines, such as voting rights, police reform, and public health, are central to McAuliffe’s campaign efforts to paint Yangkin with the patina of Republican Trump; over 75 percent of McAuliffe’s ads involve attacking or contrasting an opponent.
As for Youngkin’s campaign, one announcement dominates the rotation: an excerpt from the September debate in which McAuliffe stated, “I don’t think parents should tell schools what they should teach.” The comment follows a dispute between the two candidates over a 2017 veto that McAuliffe signed as governor over a law that allowed parents to prevent their children from studying material deemed sexually explicit.
Schools have quickly taken to the forefront of national political squabbles: right-wing media have seized on a crusade against the demands of school masks and critical race theory, and big conservative pundits are pushing Republicans to focus on school board races. While McAuliffe’s quote did not originate from the current controversy over schools, it quickly resonated. Youngkin’s campaign has invested over $ 1 million in advertising.
Youngkin has a more balanced mix of positive and negative ads, including many biographical ads that highlight his past as a college basketball player and businessman, and is presented as an outsider in Virginia politics who can pursue his goals.
But a mismatch in the ratio of positive and negative advertising does not necessarily mean that one candidate is on the rise and the other is on the defensive. Youngkin, who has spent most of his career in business, must constantly present himself to voters while trying to define McAuliffe through negative advertising.
McAuliffe, a former governor who left office in 2018 by voting safely over water, is a prominent figure in the state who has banned governors from serving two consecutive terms. With no need for biographical ads, McAuliffe’s campaign grew more aggressive, including with the emergence of several non-standard national attack advertisements for Taylor Swift’s music rights.
As part of a small digital ad campaign, McAuliffe bought ads on Instagram, Facebook and Google that highlighted Swift’s popularity. claim that the Carlyle Group, which Yangkin previously headed as co-executive director, helped fund the sale of the rights to her music.
One announcement ends with a nod to Swift’s words, “Because Glenn, we have bad blood now.”
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