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Swing states get a campaign message no one else does

After some good-natured banter between Kelly Ripa and Neil Patrick Harris on their morning show, there was Hillary Clinton suddenly on screen, with a dark message of looming danger.

During a break in Thursday morning’s “Live with Kelly” show, the Clinton ad painted Donald Trump as a risk to all things America – using Republican voices to drive the point home.

“He’s a race baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot,” says Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. “He’s not a serious adult,” adds Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb. After a parade of similar GOP messages, the viewer sees a picture of Trump and the words “Unfit. Dangerous. Even for Republicans.”

The ad is a taste of the starkly negative message voters in swing states such as Pennsylvania endure every time they turn on their TV or connect to an internet site. While probably three-fourths of the nation hasn’t seen any presidential ads, people in the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre area, long regarded as a place where frustrated blue collar workers are anyone’s voters, are seeing a barrage.

The campaigns are aiming for retirees and those at home during the day, targeting ads to such programs as “Judge Judy,” “Divorce Court” and “Two and a Half Men” reruns. They’re trying to catch family audiences with ads on “Family Feud” and “Let’s Make a Deal.” They’re seeking those who follow the news by bombarding early, late and dinner hour newscasts.

No one is sure what will work in a political year where the old rules are fading fast. Younger viewers are no longer as ad-dependent as they once were, for example.

“I tune ‘em out,” said Patti Puorro of Mayfield, Pa., laid off four years ago from her job refinishing oil tanks.

“I do my own research,” added Brandis Doll, a Scranton stay-at-home mother who searches the internet to check out the charge leveled in the ads.

A lot of the ads just roll off everyone’s back,” said Kenn Venit, a Hamden, Conn.-based media consultant. “There’s nothing in them that’s been said that hasn’t been already said.”

The attacks still come at them, online and on TV. Among the 2016-vintage approaches is one from American Bridge 21st Century, a political action committee that promotes Democrats, which last week released a digital ad targeted to frustrated blue collar workers in Scranton and elsewhere.

It notes Trump products made in other countries, and ends by telling the viewer, “Trump Pence Make American Outsource Again!”

The ad was promoted to voters who the group found through its research would be most receptive to its message. Via Facebook, they were urged to watch the new ad, and 22,000 people in the state did.

With Donald Trump, every child will get the chance to live the American dream Dr. Ben Carson in a Great America PAC television ad

The candidates themselves are in very much in this ring. After Clinton earlier this month branded half of Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables,” Trump was up quickly slamming her.

“Hillary Clinton viciously demonizing hard working people like you,” says the 30-second spot, running all over the state as well as Ohio, North Carolina and Florida.

Politicians know, though, that they have to make people feel some warmth. People do want a reason to vote for someone. Cut through the criticism of the opponent and ads do add a positive message.

After viewers were told Thursday on “CBS This Morning” how the Scranton area was about to enjoy a sunny, beautiful 74 degree day, they saw an upbeat Clinton ad.

First came a gentle jab from Clinton. “Donald Trump says he alone can fix the problems we face. Well I don’t believe that’s how you get things done in our country,” she says.

Then she makes her point: “We’ve got to bring people together. That’s how you solve problems and that’s what I’ll do as president,” a friendly Clinton tells viewers.

It takes Democrats and Republicans working together Hillary Clinton in a new campaign ad explaining how things get done

Trump’s respect-me ad makes a pitch on the economy, a particularly sensitive message in this land of blue collar workers. First, though, comes his calm recitation of why Clinton is trouble.

“In Hillary Clinton’s America,” the ad says, “the middle class gets crushed, taxes go up, hundreds of thousands of jobs disappear. It’s more of the same, but worse.”

Cue the upbeat mood. In “Donald Trump’s America,” where “working families get tax relief,” millions of jobs are created and wages go up.

“The American dream achievable,” the ad says. “Change that makes America great again.”

To make the candidates’ views clearer, super PACs and activist groups officially unaligned with the candidates jump in as well. Their mission is message.

During Fox News Network’s “Megyn Kelly Live” and “Hannity” programs Wednesday night, the Great America PAC, which is promoting Trump, ran ads featuring Dr. Ben Carson, a Trump backer, urging support. One Carson ad has him promoting Trump’s school choice plan.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform, a public education group whose views on immigration are similar to those of Trump, had ads running Thursday morning on the CBS, ABC and NBC morning shows.

In the ad, its president, Dan Stein, explains “Maybe it’s time to phase down immigration so we can phase Americans back in.” Stein said in an interview his group is spending about four times as much on broadcast as digital ads, thought to be about the industry standard, hoping to maintain a national dialogue about immigration policy.

His group, which launched the ad in the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre area last week, chose the region because of its concentration of frustrated blue collar workers.

As with so many others that are seeking support here, it chose to air its ads during news and information programs because “you have an engaged audience that takes this information seriously,” Stein said.

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