The hard-hitting attack ad came to local Utah politics this week with the airing of a Ted Wilson ad criticizing several actions taken by Gov. Norm Bangerter.
It was an inevitable progression, greatly enhanced this year by the ads run nationally by George Bush against Michael Dukakis.Such ads are called "negative advertisements" because they don't tout the qualities of the candidate paying for them but raise doubts about his opponent.
Some end with the announcer saying that since this man fouled up so bad, you should vote for the candidate paying for the ad. Others, like Wilson's ad, don't mention the candidate paying for the ad at all, just criticize his opponent.
Either way, it is clear from the presidential race that such critical ads work. And if they work, you're going to see more and more of them in years to come.
Oh, I know the argument about Utah - that Utahns don't like "negative campaigning" and the candidate that uses it will lose. But Utahns aren't that different than other voters. And across America, negative campaigning works. It works in Utah, also.
Take the presidential race, for example.
In Utah, Dukakis came to within five points of Bush in a Deseret News/KSL-TV poll taken just after the National Democratic Convention and before the National Republican Convention. Five points! And that's in the most Republican state in the nation.
Bush jumped way up in Utah polls after his successful national convention. But his lead grew even more as his ads critical of Dukakis ran across the nation and in Utah.
Bush claims that the Democrats started the negative campaign by calling him names and making fun of him during their convention. But that's traditional - you always take shots at the other guy in your national, state or county party conventions.
But rarely, if ever, have Americans seen the kind of national TV campaign Bush has put on.
Yes, there have been critical TV ads before, perhaps the most famous being Lyndon Johnson's 1964 ad that showed a little girl picking pedals off a flower and then a nuclear bomb going off - the idea being that Barry Goldwater could lead the nation into nuclear war.
Johnson's ad worked, political experts say. And Bush's have also, they agree.
So it's safe to assume that Wilson's will have the effect his campaign manager, Rob Jolley, desires - to remind Utahns why nearly half of them don't like the job Bangerter does as governor.
Traditionally, Utahns haven't seen critical advertisements on TV. Such attacks are used in debates, on radio and especially in direct mail. The direct mail letters sent out by Sen. Orrin Hatch and Bangerter this year would make you believe the state is about to be taken over by drug-crazed liberals who will steal all the children (I'm slightly exaggerating).
Bangerter has run some very critical advertisements about Wilson on radio.
But TV has remained somewhat pure.
Bangerter has already answered the Wilson TV ad with an ad of his own, saying Wilson supported all those decisions and so is only telling half the truth.
Utahns had better get used to critical advertisemens. It seems such ads on TV are here to stay.