Campaign ads in Senate race turn candidates into cartoons

By Katy Nielsen

As we approach midterm Election Day on Nov. 2, campaign ads become more aggressive. The focus drifts away from what the candidates offer and turns into rounds of playground name-calling.

State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, a Democrat, and Congressman Mark Kirk, a Republican, are both vying for President Obama’s vacated Illinois Senate seat, and both are running less than civil ad campaigns.

Watching television has turned into an unexpectedly stressful event. Every commercial break brings another round of Kirk versus Giannoulias and their rude ads that attempt to tear down credentials and destroy reputations.

Both Giannoulias and Kirk have been surrounded by controversy during the campaign. One issue Giannoulias faces is scrutiny about his connection to the failed Broadway Bank. Kirk has admitted making factually incorrect statements about his military record and had to set the record straight.

The Giannoulias family owned the Broadway Bank, this is true, but Giannoulias’s involvement with the bank ended in 2006 before the bank closed. The family faced a tremendous financial loss, but the details involving Giannoulias were confusing.

The bank loaned money to some shady characters, such as Michael “Jaws” Giorango, who was convicted of running a prostitution ring. But these loans were made before the “known mobsters” were convicted.

When trying to decipher fact from fiction, the voter is bombarded with conflicting information and lots of propaganda—Giannoulias would make Tony Soprano proud, according to the Kirk campaign.

The rebuttal on might be accurate, but because it is tied to the Giannoulias campaign, it doesn’t seem like a reliable source.

Trying to figure out who’s telling the truth is exhausting.

In a Chicago Tribune poll from Sept. 24 to 28, people were asked whom they consider more trustworthy or honest between the candidates. Thirty-five percent said Giannoulias, 30 percent said Kirk, 16 percent said neither and 18 percent said they

didn’t know.

Studies suggest negative campaign ads are easier to remember. This may be true; those ads definitely stay with you.  Some of them seem like horror movie trailers.

In one ad, black and white images of Giannoulias flash on the screen: the words “More Spending,” “Bigger Government” and “Raise Taxes” appear next to him. Are we supposed to be afraid of our candidate?

The issues should be jobs, spending and taxes, but when commercials refer to candidates’ lying about their records and being connected to the mob, the election turns into a rant forum. The candidates deviate from the issues. It’s a big waste of money.

One of my favorite ads is a cartoon of Giannoulias recklessly driving a car around financial curbs symbolizing the college savings fund, Bright Start, and his connection to the Broadway Bank. Cartoon Giannoulias proceeds to fall asleep at the wheel. It looks cheesy and cheap. Those commercials make the other guy look like a jerk.

The Giannoulias campaign is also hard at work turning Kirk into a villain. No one is safe here. A cartoon ad features Kirk as Pinocchio, or “Kirknocchio.” The more he talks about his military experience, the longer his nose grows.

Possibly because of funding, there are notably fewer negative ads about Kirk than Giannoulias. Kirk never served in the Gulf War or the invasion of Iraq. On Oct. 10, Kirk and Giannoulias appeared on “Meet the Press,” where Kirk admitted he was careless about the claims he made.

We know the race for Illinois Senate is close, but this mudslinging seems to neither help nor hurt Giannoulias or Kirk. It’s all just a bunch of bullying.