Will Reagan "Glow" Affect Tone of Current Political Ads?

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One of the most frequent comments heard about the late President was that he conducted politics with a kind of civility not seen since the 1992 Clinton election. Will that nostalgic remembrance have an impact on political advertising in 2004?

Ronald Reagan was not merely the "Great Communicator." He was also the "Great Mood Maker." Among the many tributes made to him over the several days of national mourning and celebration of his life, his personality and his accomplishments was the observation that he conducted politics with a kind of "civility" that has been missing from American politics since the 1992 election of Bill Clinton. Will the warm glow of appreciation for Reagan that is now almost palpable from coast to coast bring about a change in the tone of political advertising in the current Presidential campaign?

Although some have argued that the new McCain-Feingold "stand by your ad" provisions have reduced the harshness of the candidates' negative ads to date, this is really a naive and specious conclusion. It may have somewhat toned down the negative advertising by the candidates' own committees, but the emergence of well-funded 527 independent organizations like MoveOn.org and The Media Fund has more than made up for it with ads competing with each other for ever-greater incivility and vitriol.

One organization that wants to promote a return to a more Reaganesque tone in political advertising is Let Freedom Ring, Inc., a conservative public-policy non-profit with funding commitments for 2004 exceeding one million dollars. Its President, Colin A. Hanna, recently announced a TV and radio commercial contest with cash prizes and a twist: no negative spots need apply. There will be four TV first prizes of $10,000, and one radio first prize of $5,000. Second prizes will be half of the first prizes, bringing the total prize fund to $67,500.

Details of the contest can be found at Let Freedom Ring's website, http://www.letfreedomring.com. Spots meeting the organization's criteria may be e-mailed to the organization and will be posted for public viewing on the website.

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Colin Hanna
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