This week, the candidates for U.S. Senate released television ads directly targeting each other in the first back-and-forth attacks via TV spots of the campaign.

Congressman Tom Cotton (R) fired the first shot at incumbent Senator Mark Pryor (D) with his new television entitled “Good for the Gander.”

Cotton’s Television Ad

Cotton’s ad transcript:
Announcer: “What’s good for the goose ought to be good for the gander. But not in Washington. Mark Pryor cast the deciding vote to make you live under Obamacare. But Pryor votes himself – and everyone in Congress – special subsidies, so they’re protected from Obamacare. Exemptions and special subsidies for Mark Pryor. Higher insurance premiums for you. Mark Pryor: Voting with Obama. Voting against Arkansans like you.”

The goals of Cotton’s ads are clear: tie Mark Pryor to President Obama and Obamacare while making the argument that Pryor exempted himself from the ACA while everyone else is stuck with it.

Senator Pryor’s campaign responded to Cotton’s attack with an ad entitled “Silly.”

Pryor’s Television Ad

Pryor’s ad transcript:
Man: ‘Silly’ [Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 9/22/13] Woman: ‘Bogus’ [Factcheck.org, 8/30/13] Man: ‘Tom Cotton has chosen to play Washington politics and not tell the truth.'[Talk Business, 10/1/13] Woman: It’s not just that he’s running frivolous ads at this critical time.
Man: But when Congress was debating whether to shut down the government, where was Tom?
Woman: Down in Houston raising big bucks from Texas fat-cats. [Headline: Cotton missed votes for Houston fundraiser, Southwest Times Record, 9/27/13] Man: Missing votes in Congress and not doing his job.
Woman: Tom Cotton: just reckless and irresponsible.

Pryor’s goals in this ad are to discredit Cotton’s Obamacare exemption charge and counter-punch with an argument that Cotton is skipping votes to attend fundraisers during the shutdown.

ANALYSIS
In the 60-seconds it takes to watch both ads, the main thrusts of each candidate’s attack on the other come into focus.  These ads encapsulate each candidates’ central arguments against the other that we’ll likely hear for the entire campaign.

Cotton’s overall attack strategy is to tie Pryor to Barack Obama and Obamacare at every opportunity. It’s not a sophisticated or subtle message, but in a state where the President and his signature legislation are not popular, it doesn’t need to be.

And from time-to-time, Cotton will blow on his racially-tinged political dog whistle for good measure.

Pryor’s overall attack strategy on Cotton is to highlight the 10-month freshman Congressman’s reckless and irresponsible record. You’ll likely hear those two words often from Pryor’s campaign. They’ll point out votes Cotton cast that hurt Arkansans, such as voting against student loans, against a much-need Farm Bill and against the Violence Against Women legislation to name a few.

Cotton has a slightly easier time in making his argument on the Obamacare Congressional exemption. Cotton knows that a simple lie is easier to explain than a complicated truth. Here’s a helpful article that explains how federal workers, such as Congressional staff members, were exempted from Obamacare because they already had affordable health insurance, just like all other federal employees.

If Tom Cotton had his way, many of these federal employees would receive a a 20% pay cut by eliminating the employer share of health care that the rest of the entire federal employee workforce already receives. Cotton was called on the carpet last week on national TV when MSNBC host Chuck Todd pushed back on Cotton’s Obamacare exemption charge.

This first round of attack and counter-attack ads via television is the first of many we’ll see throughout the course of the campaign.

The amount of money both campaigns will spend on attack ads makes me wish I owned a television station and sad to own a television.

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Michael Cook
Michael Cook is the moderator for his opinion blog, Cook's Outlook. He can be reached by e-mail at Michael@CooksOutlook.com. Follow him on Twitter: @mcookAR or on Facebook: facebook.com/CooksOutlook.