Kelly Ayotte's Attack Ads Attacking Her Opponent for Running Attack Ads

Commentary by Timothy Horrigan; August 26, 2010 & October 4, 2010 & December 7, 2011

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New Hampshire U.S. Senatorial candidate Kelly Ayotte does not come across as someone who is very interested in literary theory. Nor does she come across as someone with much of a sense of irony. But her campaign consultants have come up with some post-post-modern attack ads, ironically attacking her opponents for running attack ads. The best example of this was her "Shockingly Liberal" ad which attacked the Rye, NH-based millionaire Bill Binnie. That ad has been taken down from YouTube after Binnie lost the election. Well actually it is still on YouTube but it has been marked "Private":

Binnie finished a distant third in the primary, which probably proves that Ayotte's meta-attack ads were a waste of time, though perhaps this proves they were amazingly effective.

Binnie's evil motivation for running attack ads was, by the way, because he was "trailing in the polls." Apparently, the desire to win the election is a very, very bad thing— even though Ayotte herself is running attack ads in an attempt to— well, frankly, in an attempt to win the election!

Ayotte earlier attacked Democrat Paul Hodes for running attack ads (as well as for being behind in the polls.) She even shows some video from Hodes' attack ads: much of that video was shot at a hearing which I attended and even testified at. (She was dodging questions about a New Hampshire-based mortgage company called FRM which spectacularly imploded in 2009 after years of blatantly fraudulent activity.)

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Here are two of Hodes's own anti-Ayotte ads, which I (not too surprisingly) think are not objectionable at all, and which fairly adumbrate Ayotte's nonfeasance. They state truthfully that she did nothing to stop the FRM scandal:

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(I can be seen lurking in a hallway around the 0:40-0:50 mark)

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Finally here is Ayotte's new "Path" commercial, one of her first new TV spots since the primary. It isn't exactly post-modern but it is an attack ad disguised as a positive ad. She is standing deep in a woods somewhere in New Hampshire, at a point where two footpaths diverge. She is dressed for hunting season in a bright red vest, and she speaks softly.

The music is not ominous and there are no unflattering photos of her opponent. It has none of the stylistic tropes of the attack ad, yet it is an attack ad.

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This TV spot is reminiscent of a famous poem by the great New Hampshire poet Robert Frost:

Robert Frost: The Road Not Taken (1915)

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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