The rain and wind from Hurricane Sandy were blowing outside in recent days while households were experiencing a flood of campaign advertising inside.
Connecticut households with power before, during and after Sandy may have noticed that while the storm has impacted campaign activities and appearances, there was no impact on the commercials.
In fact on Monday, when our newsroom was turned into Channel 8’s hurricane coverage, many of us commented about the fact that when the station did cut to commercials, they were all political and mostly Republican U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon’s.
My initial thought was the campaigns purchased a lot of last minute air time to take advantage of the media coverage of Sandy. And since the wealthy McMahon’s self-funded campaign has dominated the ad wars since the summer, it makes sense that hers are still the most prevalent on the tube.
McMahon’s campaign declined to talk strategy, while Democratic opponent Chris Murphy’s campaign said the commercials had been booked far in advance because this is the final full week for campaigning and had nothing to do with the hurricane.
Richard Hanley, a journalism professor at Quinnipiac University, suspected television stations made a strategic business decision. Since commercial time is limited during coverage of major storms, stations can make it up to companies but not to campaigns.
“The expiration date is Tuesday, so they’re almost forced to run them,” Hanley said.
NBC News Anchor Brian Williams, stationed in New York City, commented on McMahon’s commercials last night while introducing a segment with reporter Chuck Todd on Sandy’s impact on the presidential race.
“Chuck, in this part of the country those who do have television are seeing attack ads from a woman named Linda McMahon who’s running for Senate up in Connecticut airing like nothing had changed, juxtaposed against the damage. It’s just a very strange time,” Williams said.
You can watch the clip below. Fast forward to the 14 minute, 50 second point.