In 1996, Ross Perot, who was struggling to recreate the enthusiasm he'd generated during his first presidential bid four years before, borrowed a tactic from that campaign and purchased ad time on the three major TV networks in 30 or 60 minute segments for the day before the election, which the Reform Party nominee jokingly characterized as "two hours of saturation bombing before you go to the polls." (You can see a half hour version here, but … why would you?) Perot's infomercials were viewed by an estimated 22.7 million people, which was almost three times the number that voted for him the next day.
No one tried this again in a presidential election until 2008 when Barack Obama launched his own 30-minute ad the week ahead of his Election Day victory. The program attracted an estimated 33.6 million viewers, which was about 14 million more than the number that watched the final game of the World Series, a number that "shocked" even then-CBS chairman Leslie Moonves.
A few Republican contenders for various offices have attempted something similar since then, but they've learned the hard way that viewers simply aren't as interested in giving up a half hour of their lives to a downballot candidate. Ken Cuccinelli aired his own 28-minute infomercial during the 2013 campaign for governor of Virginia, a piece the poor soul at the Virginian-Pilot who had to write it up called "unpolished" and "choppily-edited."
The oversized commercial, which the paper estimated received a total of five airings (including twice "during non-peak hours"), was far from enough to save Cuccinelli from a narrow defeat weeks later in his general election with Democrat Terry McAuliffe.
A far more obscure candidate also tried this in 2019 when businessman Mark Gonsalves, who was competing in the following year's primary for Georgia's 7th Congressional District, created his own 30-minute infomercial, which the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said ran "mostly in the early morning hours."
Gonsalves was unable to cobble together a winning coalition of insomniac voters, though, as he took a distant third with just 7%. Gonsalves is now the nominee against Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath in the new version of the 7th, which the GOP legislature made safely blue in order to shore up their prospects in the nearby 6th, but that ad is no longer available on YouTube.
But none of these candidates went anywhere near as far as Hawaii Republican Linda Lingle, who created her own 24-hour cable TV station during her 2012 Senate campaign for $2,500 a week. The New York Times at the time described Linglevision as "a feast of Lingle speeches, Lingle advertisements and Lingle endorsements, as well as video issue papers, televised forums and testimonials delivered in 10 of the languages spoken on these islands."
The former governor's campaign estimated in July that 70,000 people had watched for an average of three-and-a-half minutes. However, when the paper asked Lingle if these viewers were mostly, in the words of Stephen Colbert, "insomniacs, people in traction, people who can't find the remote, people trapped under a bookcase, empty Best Buy stores, and cats left alone with a TV for comfort," she responded, "Well, that's a good question." (A huge thanks to Twitter user Union Tpke who unearthed the old clip.)
Lingle said she'd keep Linglevision around if she won, but the point became moot after her decisive electoral defeat against Democrat Mazie Hirono. Sen. Hirono, who said of the project, "I think I saw a couple of seconds of it when I was trying to change the channels. It's not a station I would watch," has yet to create her own 24-hour TV network.
● GA-Sen: An affiliate of the Democratic-aligned Senate Majority PAC has launched a TV ad against Republican Herschel Walker highlighting his "history of violence" that the narrator says includes "repeatedly threatening to kill his ex-wife." The spot shows TV news clips where presenters say that Walker talked about having a "shoot out with the police," thoughts of "murdering a man," and the "visceral enjoyment" he would get from "seeing ... the spray of brain tissue."
The commercial ends with a TV interviewer asking Walker if he was "really about to commit murder," to which Walker replies, "I'm not gonna shy away from violence." When the host then asks if he wanted to "kill that guy," Walker responds, "Oh yeah, I did want to kill him."
Democrats have been hammering Walker over this issue for weeks, and Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock just days earlier had released his own TV ad featuring 2008 footage of Walker's former wife, Cindy Grossman, telling a TV interviewer how Walker had "held a gun to my temple and said he was going to blow my brains out."
Walker has tried to defuse accusations of domestic violence throughout the campaign by pointing to his struggles with Dissociative Identity Disorder. The candidate has argued that he's been forthright about a period when his "mental health was at its worst," and repeatedly claimed he addressed such matters in his 2008 memoir. However, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution now reports, that simply isn't true.
The AJC noted that Walker's book never talked about violence toward Grossman, nor has the candidate done so in dozens of speeches on his mental health struggles over the years. Instead, the Republican wrote of the dissolution of their marriage, "I can't point to any major blowups between us, but I felt like things had eroded."
Furthermore, Walker has avoided addressing how Grossman took out a protective order against him in 2005 and an affidavit from her sister alleged that he had repeatedly threatened to kill Grossman and her boyfriend. However, Walker once did concede in a 2008 ABC story that "he probably did it," but he claimed he couldn't remember (Dissociative Identity Disorder is often linked to memory loss) and hasn't mentioned this explanation again as a candidate.
OH-Sen: Civiqs (D): J.D. Vance (R): 48, Tim Ryan (D): 45
WI-Sen: Civiqs (D): Ron Johnson (R-inc): 49, Mandela Barnes (D): 48
● KS-Gov, FL-Sen: Republicans aired numerous transphobic ads during their primaries attacking Lia Thomas, the college swimmer who this year became the first trans athlete to win a NCAA Division I national championship, but the RGA's new general election spot against Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly may be the party's worst yet.
The commercial stars Riley Gaines, who competed against Thomas and misgenders her for the audience. "I was forced to share a locker room with a biological man," Gaines says, adding, "In the pool, he claimed a trophy that a woman had earned." She goes on to attack Kelly for twice vetoing bills that would have banned trans women from competing in the sport that corresponds with their gender identity, which Gaines characterizes as "laws to protect women and girls in sports."
This isn't the only transphobic commercial Republicans are running in a competitive race, though. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio uses his new spot to link Democratic foe Val Demings to what he calls "the radical left," which he argues wants to "turn boys into girls."
● PA-Gov: Democrat Josh Shapiro's latest ad opposing Republican Doug Mastriano details how the latter "wrote a bizarre manifesto" at age 37 about how "someone like himself would have to hide out in a cave because he feared a politically correct leader driven by deviant sexual behavior would take over America and kill millions." Mastriano's screed further argued that only "macho-warrior spirit" could save us from a left-wing "Hitlerian putsch."
As the Washington Post previously reported, the ad is referencing the master's thesis that the far-right candidate wrote back in 2001 when Mastriano was a major at the Air Force's Air Command and Staff College. The Post writes that his thesis concluded that the U.S. military was the "only institution to prevent the destruction of the republic" and expressed doubts that the military should be controlled by elected civilian leaders.
Meanwhile, the New Jersey Globe reported Friday that Mastriano was registered to vote in New Jersey until 2021, long after moving to Pennsylvania a decade ago, though he hadn't voted in the Garden State since 2010.
Importantly, it isn't a crime or "voter fraud" to be simultaneously registered in multiple states so long as someone doesn't vote in both of them in the same election, since voters often aren't promptly removed from the rolls when they move elsewhere thanks to America's highly decentralized voter registration systems. However, that hasn't stopped Trump and fellow election deniers like Mastriano from repeatedly raising the specter of voter fraud involving double registrations as a justification for trying to overturn legitimate election outcomes, even when it previously turned out that many of Trump's allies and one of his daughters themselves were registered in multiple states.
ME-Gov: Maine People's Resource Center (D): Janet Mills (D-inc): 49, Paul LePage (R): 38
NY-Gov: Data for Progress (D): Kathy Hochul (D-inc): 52, Lee Zeldin (R): 39
OH-Gov: Civiqs (D): Mike DeWine (R-inc): 44, Nan Whaley (D): 41
WI-Gov: Civiqs (D): Tony Evers (D-inc): 49, Tim Michels (R): 48
Believe it or not, this is the first Maine survey we've seen since May. The Maine People's Resource Center calls itself a "non-partisan, non-profit organization," though the Bangor Daily News identifies it as a "progressive" group.
Civiqs shows a far closer race in Ohio than the double-digit DeWine lead that other firms have found over the last month. This survey finds 10% of respondents favoring an unnamed "Someone Else," though there are no other options on the ballot other than DeWine and Whaley.
● OH-09: Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur and her allies have spent months focusing on J.R. Majewski's involvement in the Jan. 6 riot, but the Republican nominee is only now airing a general election ad to portray himself in a different light. Majewski uses his opening commercial, which is a joint buy with the NRCC, to tell the audience that "before I put on a tie, I was a union rep and negotiated our first raise in 20 years." He goes on to decry inflation and argue, "We'll never get inflation under control until we get these career politicians out."
Democrats, though, are very much not letting up on their ad campaign focused on Jan. 6. House Majority PAC's newest spot features a retired police officer saying, "J.R. Majewski was at the Capitol in the middle of the mob as officers were beaten with fists, bats, and even the American flag, and said he would do it again." He concludes, "J.R. Majewski should be in jail, not in Congress."
OR-05: Global Strategy Group (D) for 314 Action (pro-Jamie McLeod-Skinner): Jamie McLeod-Skinner (D): 41, Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R): 38
PA-08: Cygnal (R) for Jim Bognet: Matt Cartwright (D-inc): 48, Jim Bognet (R): 48 (June: 46-45 Bognet)
A month-old survey of Oregon’s 5th from the GOP firm Clout Research put Chavez-DeRemer ahead 44-34 in a constituency that would have favored Biden 53-44.
An early August Democratic internal for Pennsylvania's 8th put Cartwright ahead 52-46 in this 51-48 Trump district.
● CO-AG: Democratic Attorney General Phil Weiser has earned an endorsement from his Republican predecessor, Cynthia Coffman.
Secretaries of State
● GA-SoS: The state Democratic Party is using its first general election ad to attack Republican incumbent Brad Raffensperger's opposition to abortion rights, which isn't an issue that's front and center in secretary of state races. The spot, which the party says is a "six-figure ad buy," faults Raffensperger over a 2016 questionnaire for Georgia Life Alliance where he checked the "no" boxes when asked if he believed in exceptions to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest.
● Los Angeles, CA Mayor: Billionaire Rick Caruso has been off the airwaves since the early June nonpartisan primary, but AdImpact reports that he's reserved $17 million in TV time for the remainder of the campaign.
The Los Angeles Times notes that Rep. Karen Bass, who led 43-31 in an independent poll conducted last month, has yet to book any general election TV time, though an allied super PAC funded by the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters has reserved $1.1 million for mid-October. Caruso vastly outspent Bass in the first round, but the congresswoman ended up outpacing him 43-36; Bass has since earned endorsements from President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Dollar amounts reflect the reported size of ad buys and may be larger.