After spending the weeks before the election sending emails imploring his readers to send him money to run TV ads he described as critical to defeating President Obama, Dick Morris used his most recent column to say that such ads have no impact.
The Fox News political analyst and columnist for The Hill is having a rough month. In the wake of an election in which several conservative pundits -- conspiracy theorists, wishful thinkers, and heavily invested political players alike -- have come out looking foolish for their predictions of a major Romney win, Morris stands alongside Karl Rove as the figure bearing the most ridicule and criticism.
Perhaps in response to this criticism, Morris penned an election postmortem this weekend, wherein he laid out why “The Campaign Made No Difference.” According to Morris, the extended, expensive campaign in swing states was basically a wash.
But for weeks before the election, Morris' public pronouncements of an impending Romney victory were tied to a steady barrage of fundraising emails from his political action committee, Super PAC for America. Those pre-election emails explained that the TV ads that Super PAC for America was running had made a difference in swinging the race in Romney's favor.
Now, a week out from the election, Morris explains that political ads are ineffective and people just fast forward through them anyway:
The months and months of campaigning, the hundreds of millions of TV advertising, the incessant travel schedules of the candidates, and the vigorous efforts of both sides to get their vote out made little or no difference in the outcome of the Election of 2012.
1. Television is losing its impact. Particularly in the presidential race, it is astonishing that the almost one billion dollars spent advertising in eight states did very little to move the vote share. Voters are not watching television as much these days and those that are still turning it on are fast forwarding through the ads. And negative campaign ads -- in fact, all ads, -- are losing their impact.
To sum up, Morris now says that nobody watches political ads, they don't move swing voters, and negative ads are losing their impact. Let's compare Morris' discussion of the ineffectiveness of political advertising with some of the fundraising emails sent by Super PAC for America in the weeks leading up the election.
Starting in early October, Super PAC for America started a fundraising campaign to run anti-Obama ads in a series of swing states. In an October 18 email sent to his mailing list, Morris declared his Super PAC had created a “powerful new ad that cuts through the political spin and directly cuts to the bone.” In Morris' telling, no other group was “running such clear and powerful ads,” which is why they “urgently need[ed] your help to place this ad in key swing state markets across the nation.”
Ten days later, Morris declared that the group's “extremely persuasive ads” had made it to the airwaves and that Super PAC's “work is paying off.” “Thanks to donations of tens of thousands of Americans like you -- we are now battering Barack Obama in 5 key swing states,” Morris wrote.
The supposed effectiveness of his group (which, while they also made an Internet and robo-call push, was largely active through running ads in swing states, according to their email communications), was a common refrain in fundraising pitches.
On October 30, Morris sent an email asking for money to expand Super PAC's ad buy to Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin after flatly declaring that his group's ads “have been working in key swing states such as Ohio, Iowa, and Florida.” (Romney lost all six states.)
The next day, in a fundraising email with the subject line “Obama Collapse Nears,” Morris crowed that “key states like Virginia, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are falling into the Romney column.” (Romney lost all three.) Morris again declared that his group had “made a huge difference in key swing states like Florida, Ohio, Iowa, and Virginia” and alleged that his group had been so effective that the Obama campaign was “watching us and reacting to our moves.”
In a last-minute pitch the day before the election, Morris again asked for money for the group to run last minute robo-calls and web ads -- which he described as “just as effective as TV ads and perhaps more so” -- and broadcast how the group has “done an incredible job in just a matter of weeks to turn the tide for Mitt.”
Less than one day -- not 24 hours -- separates us from Election Day.
The Super PAC for America has done an incredible job in just a matter of weeks to turn the tide for Mitt.
Frankly, we were a crucial help to Mitt Romney who was lagging in most swing states a month ago.
But our job is not over.
Mike Reagan, the head of Super PAC, informs me our TV ads have been airing all over Pennsylvania this weekend and will continue Monday.
But now that the election is over and the flow of Super PAC donations has slowed, Morris believes TV advertising doesn't actually work. It remains to be seen whether he'll still believe advertising doesn't work in 2014, or whether he'll again take the opportunity to shill for Super PAC donations.