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Negative Ads at 70 Percent Already; Thanks, Super-PACs

You didn't really think political campaigns were getting warmer and fuzzier, did you?

In case you need confirmation of the rising negative tone of the 2012 election season, it came this week from a Wesleyan Media Project new report. The report notes that 70 percent of TV spots aired so far for the presidential race have been negative.

Researchers on the project decided what was positive and negative by assigning any spot mentioning an opponent as negative. Most of the "negatives" don't just mention opponents, they attack them.

You might find the interesting part of all this is in the analysis of how this year compares to four years ago. The 2008 election looks almost cute and friendly compared to today: Back then, only 9.1 percent of the ads were negative at this point.

The drastic spike in negativity? Most analysts lay the blame at the feet of the super-PACs. "Whereas in 2008, candidate-sponsored ads made up 96.6 percent of total 'airings,' as of April 22, 2012, that percentage had dropped to 35.8 percent," The Huffington Post's Sam Stein writes.

The deal is this: Super-PACs, legally unable to "coordinate" with the more cautious heads of the candidate's campaigns, can go way out on a limb on a candidate's behalf. And if a super-PAC goes too far, a candidate can simply ask it to pull back. For some reason, that isn't considered coordinating.

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