DENVER (CBS4) – The presidential candidates suspended their daily campaign activities right after the theater shootings in Aurora and Coloradans haven’t seen any campaign ads until Friday.
There have been few events that have had this big of impact on a campaign, but it’s not unprecedented. After Sept. 11 candidates in the New Jersey gubernatorial race suspended campaigns and canceled ads.
There are other examples, but not at the presidential level. To put it in perspective, Kantar Media, which tracks and analyzes TV advertising, says on the morning of the shooting 171 political ads were running in Colorado. They all came down and stayed down for a week. And while the campaigns talked about a fresh start, it’s now back to politics as usual.
“We know that the flag goes back up and so does the political rhetoric at some point,” Metropolitan State University of Denver Professor Norman Provizer said.
For years political ads came down every Sept. 11, and candidates in local races have pulled ads when their opponents suffer personal loss. In the 2000 Senate race between John Ashcroft and Mel Carnahan, Ashcroft suspended his entire campaign after Carnahan died in a plane crash. Yet natural disasters, like wildfires, don’t elicit the same response.
“We don’t lower flags because of that, we don’t respond that way,” Provizer said. “I think it’s the sudden tragedy created by personal actions that we respond to so deeply.”
In fact, during Colorado’s wildfires earlier this year the number of ad buys increased, presumably to take advantage of increased viewers. And while the shootings gave a break from the rhetoric, it didn’t change it. The new ads look a lot like the old ones.
“If negative ads ever became really negative to the candidates’ campaign they would evaporate overnight,” Provizer said. “The reality is the problem isn’t so much the candidates, it’s us. When we don’t respond to negative ads they will disappear.”
The campaigns’ decision to pull the ads may be more telling than the ads themselves. Provizer says what a candidate does, what he says, how he reassures in times of crisis and tragedy is important.