Why are attack ads flying in the Pa. governor’s race so early?

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Political campaigns typically get going in earnest after Labor Day, but you wouldn’t know it if you watch television in the Philadelphia media market. Ads attacking Pennsylvania Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and his Democratic challenger Tom Wolf are all over the airwaves this summer — including one starring a Tom Wolf look-alike.

The campaign season has begun, and it has begun early.

“It’s kind of like the Christmas shopping season,” said WHYY senior reporter Dave Davies. “It just grows and grows.”

One reason ads are airing earlier than is typical, Davies said, is because the campaigns can afford it. Usually the campaigns will wait until closer to Election Day to drop the big bucks on TV ads. “But there’s just a lot more money available to campaigns these days, and partly because of court decisions,” he said.

“If money is no object, why not advertise now and later?”

Another reason punches are flying early is because Corbett emerged from the primary election far behind in the polls. He’s using the months before the election to try to make some headway with voters.

The TV ads are as nasty as they are early.

One ad from the Corbett campaign accuses Wolf of wanting to raise taxes on Pennsylvania residents and avoid taxes for himself. “If there was a hypocrite tax, Tom Wolf would owe a lot of money,” the ad claims.

In another ad produced by the left-leaning political committee NextGen, the narrator targets Corbett using images of small children. “If she were an oil executive, if he were a lobbyist, if they were political contributors, maybe Tom Corbett would listen to them,” it says.

A recent CBS/New York Times poll placed Corbett within nine points of Wolf. But some controversy arose over the poll’s methodology, which collected Internet responses instead of the typical telephone interviews.

If more independent polls confirm Corbett’s gains, Davies said, “It will indicate a competitive race … and we’ll probably be seeing uninterrupted attack ads for the next three months.”

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