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Experts: Political Personal Attack Ads Work

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Joel Thomas
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NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - They’re the types of personal political battles that take over our airwaves.

Don Huffines attacked defending State Senator John Carona in one television ad that compared him to an untrustworthy, outdated, 20- year-old computer.

“Why trust a career politician who for decades looked after himself at our expense?” the ad asked viewers.

And Carona struggled to defend himself in ads showing pictures of his parents, childhood and family portraying family values he said he carried with him to Austin. “It hasn’t always made me the most popular leader in Austin, but I’m there to do what’s right for the people,” Carona said with a confident smile on the ad.

Carona lost.

Most voters say they don’t like personal attacks.

“We’d rather focus, I think, more so, on making our government better than hearing all the personal issues,” said Fort Worth resident Patrice Greer about negative ads.

But even seasoned politicians know personal attacks can work.

“We knew it was going to be a close race,” Carona said. “There was a lot of negative campaigning and unfortunately in this race my opponent took full advantage of that. As much as people complain, it does have a tendency to work.”

Prepare for more personal attacks in the days to come.

Analysts say with run-off elections fast approaching expect more personal attacks as candidates in the same party struggle to differentiate themselves.

“If you look at the issues and just laid out the issues and say where do they differ? They don’t,” said UTA political analyst Allan Saxe. “And that is why the races become tougher yet. When you have all these people that don’t really differ much on the issues, then you’ve got to go after them personally.”

Saxe said that is especially likely in Republican run-offs where candidates often share similar conservative platforms or are running on an anti-Obama platform.

And with candidates now in run-offs looking at the bitter Carona – Huffines race and it’s outcome, Saxe said you can expect campaigns to go to personal attacks sooner and more often in coming weeks.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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