STEVE INSKEEP, host:
It's still five weeks until election day but in Ohio some polls open today. A new law allows Ohioans to register and vote early. That means the usual barrage of last minute campaign ads is already on the air. So NPR's Robert Smith took a dare. He's watching TV in Ohio.
ROBERT SMITH: Morning television isn't supposed to be depressing.
Unidentified Man #1: It's going to be our warmest day of the week so might want to get outside today and enjoy it as well.
SMITH: It should ease you into the day with weather, traffic and maybe a segment on cute cats.
Unidentified Man #2: Look at these cats that got caught red pawed, I guess I could say playing in water.
Unidentified Woman #1: Or the toilet.
Unidentified Man #2: Oh my God.
SMITH: But all of a sudden, the morning show goes to a commercial break, and I'm staring at pictures of bloody wolves being hunted in Sarah Palin's Alaska.
Unidentified Woman #2: Palin even encouraged the cruelty by proposing $150 bounty for the severed foreleg of each killed wolf.
SMITH: Good morning Columbus, Ohio where the bitterness isn't just in your cup of coffee, it's served up in 30-second TV breakfast bites.
Unidentified Man #3: While our economy is in crisis, a big government cast a big shadow on us all. Obama and his liberal congressional allies want a massive government.
SMITH: This ad shows the long shadow of the Capitol building falling over a helpless baby. That's courtesy of the McCain campaign. The bloody wolves were a gift from the group Defenders of Wildlife. Each ad alone is fine, but in Ohio, morning means watching one threatening spot after another. And with the recent economic news, it seems like almost every ad uses the same boogeyman and the same stock footage of empty factories.
Unidentified Man #4: Ohio's unemployment rate is the highest in 16 years. We've lost over 285 thousand jobs.
SMITH: These days, just reading economic data out loud counts as a scare tactic. This ad is trying to get you to vote against, well I'm going to leave it as a surprise.
Unidentified Man #4: You can protect Ohio jobs by voting no on issue five, the job killing issue.
SMITH: The job-killing issue? I had to look it up, it' really an initiative to cap interest rates of payday loans. Another initiative that would allow the building of a casino in Ohio doesn't show happy people playing craps. It threatens financial ruin.
Unidentified Man #4: There they go. Ohio tax dollars leaving our state at 65 miles an hour. Thousands of cars, trucks and buses carry Ohioans to out of state casinos everyday.
SMITH: The only way to get away from these ads is to sleep in. By mid-morning, the TV has moved away from politics and onto something more lucrative.
Unidentified Man #5: Come on down. You're the next contestant on "The Price is Right."
SMITH: Most of the ads of this time of the day are for weight loss products or have you ever been injured in an accident. Only Barack Obama has spots up in the mid-day targeting Ohio women.
Unidentified Man #6: John McCain opposed a law to give women equal pay for equal work. And he dismissed the wage gap saying women just need education and training.
SMITH: It's hard to say if any of this is actually working. When I went out for lunch, the residents of Columbus, Ohio gave their advice for watching TV ads.
Unidentified Man #7: Tune them out, every one of them.
Unidentified Woman #3: In one ear and out the other.
Unidentified Man #8: Annoying. Way too many of them.
Unidentified Woman #4: I think it's sad that they have to rip on each other so much that those are the ads that we have to watch
Unidentified Woman #5: Because we know they're all lies.
SMITH: In fact, Mike Waybel(unintelligible), Lorie Korkalis(unintelligible) and Theresa Bank didn't mention one ad that influenced their vote. By the time I got back to my TV, the congressional bailout plan had failed. The stock market was in free fall. All the same ads from the morning were playing in the afternoon but now they all felt dated. John McCain taking credit for progress on the now dead bill.
Unidentified Woman #6: McCain and his congressional allies led tough rules on Wall Street. Stop CEO rip offs, protect your savings and pensions.
SMITH: And Obama, sounding a little too sunny about the prospect of cooperation on a day when it failed.
Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois, Presidential Candidate): Bitter partisan fights are not won ideas of the left and the right won't solve the problems we face to today. But a new spirit of unity and shared responsibility will.
SMITH: With economic jitters kicked up a notch, you would have to imagine that there are already replacement ads being crafted for Ohio. Robert Smith, NPR News, Columbus.
INSKEEP: Another American reported sacrificing himself in front of the television so that you don't have to. And in All Things Considered this afternoon, you can take a tour of the TV landscape in Colorado, another hotly contested states. It's Morning Edition from NPR News.