Negative political ads are already the norm in Michigan. Pete Hoekstra, ex-Congressman running against Debbie Stabenow in the Senate race, kicked it off with a Super Bowl ad so negative, bigoted, and offensive that his poll numbers dropped immediately.
The commercial (shot in southern California) shows a young Asian woman with a bicycle standing next to a rice paddy. She speaks in broken English, insulting Senator Stabenow, whom she names "Debbie SpenditNOW," America, Americans, and in the end every Asian in America and China. This demeaning, bigoted, offensive commercial was shown locally during the Super Bowl. By the end of the game, backlash was already building. This was only one among many negative political ads, but even in a crowded field like the Michigan primary season it stood out.
State Senator Leland Yee from San Francisco said, "Pete Hoekstra's ad and marketing ploy was not only offensive, but a blatant attempt to demonize Asian culture. While I am pleased that he pulled the indefensible ad and website, Hoekstra owes the Asian-American community an apology." Since Hoekstra stonewalled the initial request to take it down from its Internet site for several days, Sen. Yee should probably not expect that apology any time soon.
This particular piece of nastiness was defended by Hoekstra for nearly ten days before he pulled it down from its website. By the time he did, the law of unintended consequences was burying him. Polling had included questions about peoples' perception of Rep. Hoekstra. According to Politico, "In July, Hoekstra's favorability rating was 31 percent favorable, compared to 30 percent unfavorable (+1). It now stands at 28 percent favorable and 38 percent unfavorable (-10)." Despite his staffers calling it a "Democrat poll," and insisting that a proper poll would have had a positive result for the Hoekstra campaign, Hoekstra's ratings and poll numbers have suffered.
Debbie Stabenow, on the other hand, provided an unintended consequence that had to gall Mr. Hoekstra no end. For her, this particularly offensive example of negative political ads was a positive thing. Calling the commercial "shocking" and "nasty," she launched a "money bomb" asking her supporters to contribute to her campaign and repudiate the commercial. Within a week she had collected more than $169,000, about $25,000 more than the ad cost.
Indeed, karma can be downright cruel. Not only did members of Hoekstra's own party call the commercial racist, unfortunate, and stupid, but its only results so far appear to be negative... for him. Negative political ads can be "teachable moments," if the student is paying attention.