New Quinnipiac presidential polls out this morning show Mitt Romney making progress in two key swing states, even as President Obama widens his lead in another.
In Florida, Romney now leads 44-43 – an eight-point reversal from late March, when Obama was up by seven. And in Ohio, Obama’s up by just two points, 44-42, after leading by six in late March. Pennsylvania brings better news for Team Obama: There, he’s up 47-39, a five-point swing in his favor.
Meanwhile, Restore our Future, a pro-Romney Super PAC, is readying to launch a $4.3 million ad campaign in nine swing states. The first ad is a rare positive spot, in which a former Bain colleague of Romney’s recounts how, when his teenage daughter vanished in New York City, the future candidate mobilized the firm’s resources in a successful effort to find her.
But the vast majority of Super PAC ads, run by outfits aligned with both sides, will be negative. And David Gregory, host of NBC’s Meet the Press, told the Morning Joe gang Thursday that the onslaught could work in Romney’s favor.
“There’s a lot of Democrats I talk to, and people within the Obama campaign I talk to, who are worried that they’re just going to be outgunned on this stuff,” Gregory said. They’re concerned, said Gregory, that “however much President Obama’s going to raise, that the Super PACs … are going to blanket swing states with negative ads against the president.”
Democrats fear that the Super PACS aligned with Obama may not be able to keep pace, Gregory added.
But Gregory said he thinks the barrage of attack ads won’t help anyone. “I have a theory that there’s going to be so much negativity that washes through the general election that it’s going to hurt both sides,” he said.
Joe Scarborough agreed. “There’s going to be sort of the law of diminishing returns, and by the end of the process, in all these swing states, these voters are going to be sick of both candidates,” he said.
Mika Brzezinski said she thought voters might “actually tune out -- to the point where it gets that negative and that relentless, you don’t even know what to believe anymore.”
We can hope -- but it’s unclear what hurting both sides would mean. Elections are zero sum games, so the ad onslaught is likely to benefit someone in the end. And campaigns run negative ads because research suggests they work, so the side that runs more of them is likely to have an advantage. Could the ads make governing more difficult for the winner, by so alienating voters? That seems unlikely, and it’s a concern that’s certainly far from the minds of campaign strategists right now.
Still, it’s worth asking why it is that we’re likely to see far higher spending on attack ads by outside groups this year than ever before. And the key reason is the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allowed third parties to spend unlimited amounts of corporate money on independent expenditure campaigns.
For those concerned about the coming barrage of negative ads – not to mention the outsized role they allow special interests to play in the process – that’s the place to focus.