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Why you should not always respond in kind to negative attack ads, and how to tailor your response so that you leave your opponent playing defense in a political campaign.

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It is the season of negative political ads, and the conventional wisdom is that you must always respond in kind when your opponent goes low with an attack ad in a political campaign. That conventional wisdom is not always true, for acting like a jerk when your opponent behaves like a jerk will only make you look like a jerk.

What you should do when you are attacked in your political campaign.

The first is dissect the political ad of your opponent, word for word and scene by scene and ask yourself some questions:

  • Does the ad merit a response?
  • Is there anything in the ad that is not true?
  • Is there anything in the ad that will hurt you?

Your response to a political ad is determined by how you answer those questions.

If the ad being run against you is poorly produced, or hard to understand, or inconsequential, you don’t need to do anything. Ignore it. Don’t dilute what you already have on the air by responding to it.

If there is something in the ad that is not true, respond by attacking the lie your opponent told. It’s a way of discrediting everything else your opponent said and undermining your opponent’s character and integrity.

If the attack ad your opponent launched is hurting you, use your response to answer the charge, and then hit back by attacking your opponent on a different subject. That forces your opponent to take their negative hit on you off the air in order to respond to your attack on them.

Negative political ads are a fact of life in any democracy where there is freedom of speech. The winner of negative ad slug fests are those who do the best job deflecting or responding to the attacks that come their way.

If you are looking for help in your campaign, please watch this video.

You will find a more in-depth discussion on how to win an election.

running for office

Political consultant Jay Townsend works with smart, passionate candidates who want to run for office, win elections and make a difference. He has successfully helped candidates learn how to run for the U.S. Senate, how to run for Congress, how to run for Mayor and develop a winning campaign marketing strategy.

How to win an election:

Running for office and knowing how to win an election is a challenge, especially for first time political candidates just learning how to run for office. Discerning the fine points of how to campaign, raise political contributions, and execute a political campaign strategy often requires the help of someone who has served as a political strategist or who has experience as a political consultant.

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