The top two candidates in the Texas governor's race launched statewide TV ads this week. Democrat Wendy Davis is trying to link Republican Greg Abbott to an accused rapist, while Abbott is trying to build ties to the Hispanic community.
The Governor's Mansion is kept gleaming white, but in the battle for who will occupy it next year the campaign is starting to get a little dirty. The Mudslinging has begun, a tactic that comes as no surprise to political analyst Brian Smith.
"One this is, if you are down in the polls you're not going to make up the gap by running positive ads, you do have to go negative,” said Smith.
Wendy Davis's first statewide ad is a 60 second spot that condemns her Republican opponent Greg Abbott for writing a dissenting opinion while serving as a state Supreme Court justice. The case involved a woman who claimed she was raped by a salesman. She sued the local business that hired him and the corporation that made the product the suspect came to sell.
“But Greg Abbott sided with the company against the victim,” booms a man's voice in the ad.
The Davis ad slams Abbott for his Dissenting Opinion- although he did agree liability belonged to the local business; which was an independent contractor.
In a statement issued Friday- Amelia Chasse, an Abbott campaign spokesperson described Davis' ad as despicable -- desperate and a distortion.
"This ad is a continuation of the type of rhetoric we've seen from a candidate who is paper-thin on substance and running a failing campaign devoid of any real vision for the future of Texas,” said Chasse who added; "No one has a stronger record fighting the heinous crime of sexual assault than Greg Abbott. Not only did he create dedicated units to arrest and prosecute sex offenders and protect women and children from assault, he's responsible for putting more offenders in jail than all of his predecessors combined. In the case referenced in Sen. Davis' despicable ad, Greg Abbott's decision left intact the liability against the sex offender and his employer. No amount of desperate distortion attempts or token ad buys by Sen. Davis can change the facts of Greg Abbott's record of fighting for Texans."
A stronger response, according to Smith, may be needed and there will be a cost.
"If you are attack, you must fight back- and that will get Abbott off the message of running a largely, not necessarily positive ads but neutral ads."
Smith points to the attack and response ads during the bush-Kerry presidential race. John Kerry was accused of flip flopping on the Iraq War and responded by calling the Bush ad juvenile and tasteless. The two campaign spots, and other political ads, can be found at a website for the Museum of the Moving Image.
"You defuse it, and then pick something else to go after,” said Smith who also noted that Kerry still lost the election.
So far Abbott's campaign ad continues to focus on Hispanic voters. His new statewide ad features his mother in law-who praises him as a good husband and good leader.
Going negative now for Davis, could be compared to throwing a Hail Mary pass in a football game. It could turn her campaign around; it could also make voters tune things out. Both candidates have a lot of money to burn on new attack ads -- turning up the heat this summer as the campaigns make the final push to November.