Tampa Home To The RNC And The Most Political Ads

When the Republican convention in begins in Tampa next week, it will do so in the number one most advertised TV market this election cycle.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. When Mitt Romney goes to Tampa next week for the Republican National Convention, he'll be landing in a place that's been subjected to more than its fair share of political ads. According to The Washington Post, more money has been spent on ads in Tampa Bay than in any other media market except Charlotte, host of the Democratic National Convention. WUSF's Scott Finn has been talking to locals who have had enough.

SCOTT FINN, BYLINE: Listen to the political ads in just one-half hour of our 5 o'clock news.

(SOUNDBITE OF ADS)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Do you support work for welfare?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: So now, the money you paid for your guaranteed health care is going to a massive...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: ...that when we built that stage, it was like building my own coffin.

FINN: Now, imagine those ads not just on the nightly news but on "The Bachelor" and "Rachael Ray" and the Rays baseball game, and imagine it coming at you for 10 months nonstop. That's life in Tampa.

JOHN LATHAM: I'm sick of them.

FINN: That's retired truck driver John Latham. He's eating some fried clams at the Taste of Boston across the bay from where the Republican National Convention will be.

LATHAM: This guy downing this guy, this guy downing that guy, you know? That's stupid.

JAMES KNIGHT: My personal opinion, I think it's just a waste of money.

FINN: And that's James Knight. He's braving a summer rainstorm to fish off the pier outside.

KNIGHT: We would waste our money to do all this campaigning when still you got people on the street that can't find a place to stay or something to eat. So it's kind of weird to me.

FINN: A small woman rides by on her bike, somehow balancing her fishing pole and her bait bucket.

AMANDA: I'm Amanda. I'm from Tampa. I do lawn care.

FINN: She describes her reaction when she sees one of these political ads.

AMANDA: Another one?

(LAUGHTER)

AMANDA: Another one interrupting my TV show? Honestly, it's like, look, can you quit for 10 minutes? Let me watch something.

FINN: If you live in one of the 40 nonswing states, you may have missed these ads. But you folks in North Carolina, Nevada, Colorado, Ohio and a few others, you feel our pain. We're all part of an unprecedented experiment. Never have so few been exposed to so much political advertising for so long.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: It don't affect me.

AMANDA: I don't really pay attention to it.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: No, I - no.

FINN: But if it doesn't, why are they spending so much?

ERIKA FOWLER: Well, I think the most important thing to remember about political advertising is that it matters at the margins.

FINN: That's Erika Fowler, director of the Wesleyan Media Project.

FOWLER: So the state of the economy and the distribution of partisanship will matter much more than political advertising. But certainly, in a close election cycle, the margin really matters.

FINN: Especially in Florida, where 537 votes were the margin between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Fowler admits the more ads we see, the less effective they are, but neither side can stop.

FOWLER: It's an arms race on the air. In an arms race, the worst possible thing would be to be outgunned.

FINN: Fowler then reaches for another metaphor.

FOWLER: You know, the Florida market is going to be inundated from now through Election Day.

KNIGHT: You know, you've got all this money coming in like a tsunami.

FINN: Knight supports Obama, but he's a felon, and he can't vote. Latham says he'll hold his nose and vote for Romney. Amanda says she never votes because it doesn't change anything. That's the one thing all this negative advertising is guaranteed to do: make people disgusted with politics. For NPR News, I'm Scott Finn in Tampa.

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