On negative ads and name recognition

I confess, I’m amused by this.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is going after Democrat Beto O’Rourke for cursing during some of his campaign speeches.

The Cruz campaign released a digital ad on social media that shows O’Rourke cursing at various campaign events over the last year.

“So he’s showing up across Texas sharing his wit, his wisdom and his character,” an unidentified narrator says as clips of O’Rourke cursing are bleeped out.

The ad closes by saying O’Rourke is “showing the #@%* up.”

That’s…bad? Doesn’t that imply that Ted Cruz isn’t “showing the #@%* up”? I’m not exactly sure what I’m supposed to make of that, but then it seems that Ted Cruz isn’t very good at negative ads. Maybe if he had some accomplishments he could tout or something like that. I’m just spitballing here. What does it say about an incumbent when all his first moves out of the gate are to attack his opponent rather than brag about his record?

It’s clear that it’s going to be all mud from here on out, not just from Cruz but also from the big money outside agitators that prop him up as well. All of which leads to a bit of musing from RG Ratcliffe on the state of the race.

The increased attention that O’Rourke’s growing celebrity is drawing has some Democratic stalwarts worried that O’Rourke has not built a campaign that has the ability to quickly trade jab for jab. This may be problematic because poll after poll—which show the race for Senate is close—suggests that a large number of voters still do not know O’Rourke. This low voter ID allows Cruz and his allies to help define his opponent leading into Election Day.

You might want to put in a mouth guard to prevent injury as you grind your teeth at the quotes from unnamed “Democratic operatives”, but never mind that for now. My first inclination in times like these is always to look to the data, so I went through all the recent polls to see what I could find about Beto O’Rourke’s favorability and name recognition. Here’s what I got:

UT/Trib, June 25 – 16% Neutral, 24% Don’t Know

Quinnipiac, July 31 – 43% “Haven’t heard enough”

PPP, August 1 – “O’Rourke’s name recognition has grown since January as well as his favorability. In January, only 39% of voters had an opinion of him, and his favorability was 20% while 19% had an unfavorable opinion of him. Now 57% have an opinion of him with 31% having a favorable and 26% having an unfavorable opinion.”

NBC News, August 22 – 36% Unsure/Never heard among RVs

ECPS, Aug 27 – 27% Neutral, 11% Never heard

Not all polls asked about Beto’s favorability (though they nearly always asked about Cruz’s, and nearly everyone has an opinion on him), and those that did were not consistent in their question wording or their categorizations. Still, even with the variability, it’s clear that a decent number of people don’t have a firm opinion about Beto O’Rourke, and thus we get the pearl-clutching.

And to be fair, it’s a very reasonable point to make. If you don’t already have an opinion about a candidate – maybe even if you do – that means your perception is up for grabs. If you’re a politician with plenty of money – and while O’Rourke has greatly outraised Cruz, he still has lots of dough and his buddies in the conservative PAC business have bottomless coffers – you can have an effect on that. Thus the old adage about defining yourself before your opponent does it for you.

That said, I think it’s also worth contemplating how much effect negative ads, even competent ones, may have this year, especially on a high-charisma candidate like Beto O’Rourke. For one thing, as we have recently observed, not all candidates are vulnerable to negative information about them. For another, people who dislike Ted Cruz (of which there are many) and are undecided about Beto O’Rourke may be less likely to believe or be swayed by an attack on O’Rourke by Cruz. Most of all, in a year where so many people are highly motivated to deliver a message to Donald Trump, negative ads just may not mean much to them.

I’m not saying that Cruz’s barrage can’t or won’t have an effect. It probably will, though at this point it’s impossible to say how much of an effect it may have. I am saying that this is a weird year, with unusual dynamics, and it’s worth thinking this sort of thing through. I do hope Beto has a strategy for weathering the attacks, even if that strategy is “keep on keeping on”. We’re sure to get a lot more polling data over the next two months, so whatever effect there is, I’m sure we’ll see it.

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24 Responses to On negative ads and name recognition

  1. Manny Barrera says:

    My two cents on the subject, Cruz has already F#!%ed up. Beto has already defined himself and Cruz was late in figuring out that Beto was closing in. The literates and racists of the Republican party will support anything that has an R in front of it. If the Devil had an R is front of it they would vote for him. Fortunately, they are in minority.

    Expect that Trump will be disinvited to a Cruz event the way things are going. Trump is the person running and putting checks on him is what is driving most people who care about this country.

    Wonder how many of the Cruz paid trolls will show up?

  2. Flypusher says:

    If you decided that “grab ‘em by the pussy” wasn’t a deal breaker, you burned the moral outrage card about salty language.

    When/where are these Cruz ads playing. I have yet to see one on my TV, but I see multiple Beto ads every day.

  3. Manny Barrera says:

    Fly, Beto ads are playing in Spanish language stations, my wife normally does not comment on them, but she said the ones that Beto is doing are very good.

  4. Mark says:

    gotta admit that ad is pretty funny.

  5. mollusk says:

    Naughty, naughty Beto… played in a band, skateboards at Whataburger, did stupid things while drunk as a student, and sometimes has a potty mouth. Oh, the humanity!!!

    These are negatives?

  6. Andrew Lynch says:

    Beto curses a lot and has a criminal record. Ted Cruz is not a cool guy and comes off a bit outdated. Regardless of these superficial traits. Policy over Personality every day of the week. Cruz is strong on cutting taxes and regulation. Cruz wins hands down.

  7. C.L. says:

    Beto… still trying to figure him out. Interesting television ads, but they never provide you with a position Beto’s taken, or will take, on anything. 30 seconds later, I have no idea what Beto’s done or will do politically.

    That being said, Cruz’s Dad killed JFK, so there’s that.

  8. Bill Daniels says:

    The fleeing the scene, accident damage DWI and the burglary charges are nice to mention, but otherwise, I agree with mollusk, pointing out that O’Roarke has a potty mouth…..so ****in’ what? Even those criminal charges are easily written off as youthful mistakes that many have also made, but just didn’t get caught at.

    Cruz would be better off focusing on easy policy issues that will get Texans fired up, like O’Roarke’s desire for ‘common sense gun control,’ and abortion. It only took one of those issues to take down Abortion Barbie. She distanced herself from the gun control crowd and still lost bigly.

    I see Cruz already has an ad airing here pointing out O’Roarke’s open border stance. These are the issues to spend that war chest on, not foul language. Cruz needs to run ads featuring Angel Moms and others negatively effected by open borders and sanctuary cities if he wants to win. He needs to personalize it….O’Roarke’s policies KILL American citizens and put all Texans at risk. That’s what I would do if I was running the Cruz campaign.

    Having said that, Beto is running a really good campaign, and if I was running the Beto campaign, I’d continue doing what he’s doing….running nice, milquetoast ads short on substance, just as Lizzie is doing. I notice Lizzie isn’t harping on the fact that she put her body on the line to keep the abortion mills humming along now, just nice, “we’re all in this together” ads.

  9. Bill Daniels says:

    As a stand alone comment, Kuff, I laughed at the ‘f-bomb’ graphic. I do enjoy your sense of humor.

  10. Manny Barrera says:

    C.L. or maybe it is C.I. not much difference

    Here is Beto O’Rourke voting record in Congress

    here is Cruz voting record in the Senate

    Ignorance is only an excuse for the lazy

  11. Manny Barrera says:

    Lying Ted

    5. Cruz thinks you don’t have the right to masturbate.
    This one’s a flip-flop. In a 2007 brief to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Cruz asserted that the 14th Amendment doesn’t protect one’s right to masturbate. “There is no substantive-due-process right to stimulate one’s genitals for non-medical purposes unrelated to procreation or outside of an interpersonal relationship,” Cruz wrote in defending a Texas law prohibiting the sale of sex toys.

    His college roommate at Princeton, Craig Mazin, expressed amusement when Cruz’s brief came up during the run-up to the 2016 election. “I was his college roommate. This would be a new belief of his,” Mazin tweeted.

    Source – – https://www.dallasobserver.com/news/sen-ted-cruz-how-lyin-ted-earned-his-nickname-from-trump-10303993

  12. Flypusher says:

    Beto is addressing the DWI issue the correct way- he’s honest about it and he’s using it as a teachable moment. He message is I-screwed-up-but-I-was-lucky-because-the-system-gave-me-a-2nd-chance-and-EVERYONE-ought-to-be-treated-that-way. He’s got standing to speak on criminal justice reform.

    As for his punk rock days, all I care about is how good of a bass player is he?

  13. Bill Daniels says:


    Beto isn’t actually addressing the whole thing. He’s not stating that he fled the scene of the accident. IOW, he’s admitting to the misdemeanor that most of us have probably been guilty of at one time or another, driving over the limit, but not admitting to the felony, fleeing the crime scene after hitting another motorist, AKA hit and run. That’s downplaying the incident, but overall, I agree with you, it’s not a disqualifier.

    Also, while not a punk rock fan, other than maybe the soundtrack to Repo Man, that’s not a negative. It makes O’Roarke more…..human, something Cruz could use a bit more of.

  14. C.L. says:

    @Manny… or is Humanzee… Not much difference.

    My point was, Beto’s TV ads lack substance. They’re long on Hallmark card quotes and Hakuna Matata empathy strokes, but way/well short on substance or positions. If all I was going to do, when deciding who to vote for in November, was review yeas and nays on a Congressional voting record, then I’d have no need to watch the boob tube.

    Oh yeah, looks like Beto missed the Sept 9th vote on ‘Biometric Identification Transnational Migration Alert Program Authorization Act of 2018 – whatever the F Bomb that is.

  15. Bill Daniels says:


    Biometric ID sounds a lot like getting the biometrics of people entering the country with, oh, say, a birth certificate and nothing else. The people being questioned about their citizenship because of questionable midwifery could have benefited (or not) from this technology.

    Even today, what prevents me from going south of the border with a birth certificate of a young American, and using that BC as (mis)identification for a foreign national kid I want to smuggle into the US? What prevents me from doing that very thing over and over, with the same American birth certificate.

    Make no mistake, that was a clear vote FOR open borders.

  16. Manny Barrera says:

    Well C.L. if you want to be that way, why not go to the website, I will provide you a link. What is your idea of substance?


    Excuses are a sign of laziness.

    But, I really think there are other motivating issues with you, that you won’t state.

  17. Manny Barrera says:

    So C.L. am I to understand that you watch television to see political ads?

    You expect ads on television to be strong on issues?

    BITMAP – https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/6439/text

    Interesting C.L. you mentioned that Beto misses one vote, how many did Cruz miss? Almost 15% of the votes.

  18. Jules says:

    Bill, perhaps that’s how we all got here. All of our passports should be revoked.

  19. Bill Daniels says:

    Hey hey, ho ho, biometrics is causing illegal aliens to go!


    “NEW YORK (FOX5NY) – Border security officials have caught a second impostor trying to enter the United States using a new facial comparison biometric system. It is the second time in less than three weeks since the cutting-edge technology was deployed at Dulles Washington International Airport in the Washington, D.C. area that someone has been caught.

    U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), says a 26-year-old woman, who arrived on a flight from Ghana, presented a U.S. passport as a returning citizen. Utilizing the facial comparison technology, the CBP officer determined that the traveler was not a match to the passport and referred her for further examination which confirmed that she was a Ghanaian citizen and an impostor.

    The woman’s name was not being released while the investigation continues.

    Posing as someone else when attempting to enter the United States is a violation of U.S. immigration law that could result in criminal prosecution. Inadmissible criminals and other foreign nationals routinely attempt various means to enter the US including using stolen, purchased or “borrowed” passports.

    CBP says its system has a match rate of 99% making it extremely difficult for criminals, terrorists or impostors to enter the country using another person’s identification and travel documents. The 2 second scan enables increased security, faster throughput, and better efficiency, according to authorities.

    In the first case, on Aug. 22, an imposter at Washington Dulles that was attempting to enter the United States using a French passport. A search revealed the man’s authentic Republic of Congo identification card concealed in his shoe.

    CBP is testing biometric exit at 15 airports across the country.”

  20. C.L. says:

    @Manny…. Don’t bother trying to troll me like you troll Bill or how Bill trolls you. Not worth your time and certainly not worth mine.

  21. Manny Barrera says:

    C.L. you start the insults and then don’t like them.

    You won’t vote Adrian Garcia because of his hair.

    You won’t for Lina Hidalgo because.

    You won’t vote for Beto because his ads have no substance.

    You sound no different than Bill, but Bill is honest about why he does it.

  22. C.L. says:

    @Manny… Oh, Manny, you have zero clue about who I plan on voting for. Give it a rest.

  23. Manny Barrera says:

    C.L. why do you say you won’t play troll when you do. I love you also, have a great day.

  24. mollusk says:

    Hit and run isn’t a felony unless someone’s injured. Apparently, no one was injured in Beto’s case, so it’s only a Class B misdemeanor – as is first offense DWI.

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