As election day approaches, Wisconsin is beginning to wonder what life would be like under its two choices for governor: Democrat Tom Barrett and Republican Scott Walker.
A set of ads offers a clue.
Barrett's "Fact or Fiction" ad pictures him in a green field as a guitar gently strums on the soundtrack. Barrett addresses the camera in shirtsleeves. "When I watch all the negative ads against me on TV," he says with a folksy chuckle, "I have to ask myself, 'Who is that guy?'"
Barrett goes on to represent his views in a low-key voice: cutting wasteful spending, fighting for jobs, etc. The camera moves in for a close-up on this gray-haired, smiling, kindly-looking man as the guitar strikes a softly hopeful major chord.
Scott Walker's insanely cacophonous "Lies" ad is a response to the Barrett spot. A crashing sound bursts out of the soundtrack, followed by crackling fire. The screen turns fiery orange and smoke rises over the words "Liar Liar Pants on Fire." A sneering narrator quotes from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, accusing another Barrett ad of being "false and misleading."
Negative words fly across the screen as a siren blares: "Forgery." "Phony." "Fake." "Distortion." The ad ends in a dissonant polyphony of buzzer noises, honking, crackling, minor chords and derisive comments from the narrator. The smoke just keeps rising.
Auntie Em, please take me back to the Wisconsin with the green field and gentle guitar music!
Isthmus TV critic Dean Robbins will assess candidate commercials throughout the 2010 fall elections in this regular feature. Read more reviews of political campaign spots.