EDITORIAL: Pennsylvania Senate race gets nasty quickly
- Republican Pat Toomey and Democrat Katie McGinty are battling for a Pennsylvania U.S. Senate seat.
- Toomey is the incumbent, but is seen as vulnerable. The race could tilt the balance of power in the Senate.
- The attack ads in the campaign have already started, and they likely won't stop anytime soon.
It's never too early to start slinging mud.
That has become painfully apparent in the past few days.
The final vote had hardly been counted in last week's Pennsylvania primary when the attack ads for November's pivotal U.S. senatorial race started hitting the state's airwaves. They came with a vengeance, and from both sides.
Apparently, there's no rest for the weary voters when it comes to the acrimonious nature of American politics.
Here's the really bad news: The nasty complexion of the battle between Republican incumbent Pat Toomey and Democratic challenger Katie McGinty will almost certainly get worse in the coming weeks and months.
That's because the Pennsylvania senatorial race is expected to be very close. Toomey, despite being the incumbent, is seen as vulnerable. As a result, the Toomey-McGinty showdown could very well determine which party will end up with control of the U.S. Senate.
Because of its national significance, millions of dollars will pour into the race from all corners of Pennsylvania, and beyond.
Unfortunately, much of that money, maybe even most of that money, will be spent on attack ads.
There's one simple reason for that. Negative advertising works. It's been proven in election after election.
Voters can complain all they want about the vile muck oozing from their televisions during every election cycle, but they have no one to blame but themselves.
Some voters definitely pay attention to the ads and they let them influence their ballots.
As long as that unfortunate trend continues, so will the negative ads.
Yes, in a perfect world, candidates would tout their own plans for making this state and nation better, rather than drowning their opponents under a waterfall of nauseating commercials that often have little basis in fact.
This is not a perfect world.
In this world, we have seen TV ads in the past week that paint Toomey as a “right-wing Wall Street shill who is riding shotgun with Donald Trump.” McGinty, meanwhile, is being labeled as “a left-wing bureaucrat who used the government-corporate revolving door to enrich herself and is Hillary Clinton's ideological soul mate.”
That description was given this week in an Associated Press story about the early U.S. Senate commercials on Pennsylvania television. Funny, it was hard not to notice that the above description didn't mention either candidates' actual policies.
Of course, promoting real ideas, engaging in civil political discourse and showing the willingness to compromise are often seen as signs of weakness in our cutthroat political landscape.
Most campaign officials believe it is impossible to build up your candidate without simultaneously tearing down your foe. Unfortunately, history tells us they are right. You can't win without getting down and dirty. They may say they hate it, but some voters are swayed by the mud-slinging.
So, you better get used to the attack ads. They aren't going anywhere.
And we have no one to blame but ourselves.