In Colorado, Early Voting Spurs Flurry Of Ads

Voters in the battleground state of Colorado are already being barraged with political ads. Add to that a hotly contested Senate race and the fact that early voting starts this month and the ads take on an urgency viewers cannot escape.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

In Colorado, ballots will being arriving in mailboxes as early as October 10th, and some voters will be able to go to the polls starting October 20th. Colorado is a swing state in the presidential elections, so right now the airwaves are packed with political ads. We asked NPR's Jeff Brady to watch TV in Denver last night during the evening news and prime time, and let us know what he saw.

JEFF BRADY: Here's a warning if you find yourself in Colorado turning on the TV for local news. Don't do it before you eat dinner.

(Soundbite of political ad)

Unidentified Man: Radical Islamic terrorists. They hate us and want us to die...

BRADY: The conservative group Freedom's Watch bought this ad. At one point, it shows Iran's president on one side and North Korea's leader on the other with a missile rising up between them.

(Soundbite of political ad)

Unidentified Man: Even as enemies seek nuclear bombs, Udall said no to missile defense...

BRADY: That's Representative Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat running for the Senate. After that, some light entertainment sounds nice. How about dancing with the stars?

(Soundbite of TV Show "Dancing With the Stars")

Unidentified Man: Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann Inaba.

Ms. CARRIE ANN INABA (Judge, Dancing With the Stars): Seven.

(Soundbite of applause)

BRADY: But even this gleaming display of past-their-prime stars gets interrupted...

(Soundbite of political ad)

Unidentified Man: Our economy is in a meltdown. But it didn't just happen...

BRADY: The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is behind this ad. It links Republican Bob Schaffer with President Bush.

(Soundbite of political ad)

Unidentified Man: Schaffer wants to continue the policies that have cost us jobs, created record deficits and left our economy in a shambles.

BRADY: And then this ad.

(Soundbite of political ad)

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois, Presidential Nominee): For eight years, we've been told that the way to a stronger economy was to give huge tax breaks to corporations and the wealthiest, cut oversight on Wall Street and somehow, all American would benefit.

BRADY: It aired many times yesterday, the same day Barack Obama held a rally in Colorado. There are no quick cuts, no grainy photos to make opponents look shady or in some cases, fat. Just the candidate sitting in front of a half-open door that appears to lead to a sun porch. This soothing portrait was juxtaposed with that of Obama at a rally in a local high school where he ripped opponent John McCain.

Sen. OBAMA: Sen. McCain, what economy are you talking about?

(Soundbite of cheers)

BRADY: Obama has been using that same line for a couple of weeks now, referring to comments McCain previously made about the strength of the U.S. economy. McCain's campaign also has been running a lot of ads in Colorado. The latest is designed to sow doubt in Obama's ability to lead the country out of the financial mess. In this cut, listen for the not-so-subtle change of music near the end of the ad.

(Soundbite of political ad)

Unidentified Woman: More taxes, no leadership, a risk your family can't afford.

Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona, Presidential Nominee): I'm John McCain and I approve this message.

(Soundbite of city traffic)

BRADY: In downtown Denver, most of the people I talked with said they don't pay attention to television ads, but when asked more questions, most were able to provide details about the ads currently airing. In Colorado, unaffiliated voters make up about a third of the electorate, and whichever way they swing is how elections go.

Mr. CURTIS BERG (Unaffiliated Voter): A lot of it is just disgustingly calculated.

BRADY: Curtis Berg doesn't belong to a political party and he says the manipulative nature of political ads seems even more disgusting given the country's financial problems.

Mr. BERG: As we sit and tap-dance around a - world collapse, economically and that's what they're doing and it's pretty amazing. Pretty, pretty sad.

BRADY: And with five weeks to go before Election Day, there's plenty more to come. Jeff Brady, NPR News, Denver.

BLOCK: And there's an examination of ads from another swing state, Ohio, at our website npr.org.

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