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Negative campaign websites are new platform, the next frontier
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Negative campaigning has already begun, and Georgia's gubernatorial race has taken the tactic to a new platform.

There are now entire websites devoted to attacking candidates.

One, hosted by the Republican Governors Association called "RoyBama," seeks to unfavorably compare Democratic candidate Roy Barnes with President Barack Obama.

Another site, hosted by the Barnes campaign, called "What is Congressman Deal Hiding?" asks voters to sign a petition for Republican candidate Nathan Deal to release his tax returns.

"It's the next frontier in negative campaigning," said Ross Alexander, a political science professor at North Georgia College & State University.

"Whatever the technological media development, at some point politicians are going to use it to sling mud at one another."

Alexander said this is the first time he has seen this tactic used in Georgia.

"The idea of having an entire website set up exclusively to negative content seems to be a bit of a progression, or regression, from the norm," Alexander said.

Audrey Haynes, an associate professor of political science at the University of Georgia, said the sites aim to chip away at the credibility of the opposing candidate.

"This is not an entirely new trend. Others have done it, usually framed as a "response" page or "truth" page," Haynes said. "What they hope is that those who are Googling for information will find their negative site and that those in doubt trying to get information on both candidates will be more convinced by theirs."

Haynes said sometimes the sites are linked directly to a candidate's main site while others are hosted by an independent organization.

"Sometimes they are operated by a group that is separate, at least on paper. It is highly likely that there is some coordination between (them), but the goal is to look like an independent venue for the truth," Haynes said.

Mike Schrimpf, a spokesman for the Republican Governors Association, said the "RoyBama" site is aimed at tech-savvy younger voters.

"We know that younger votes are more likely to find their news online than any other age group and were the least exposed to Roy's arrogance and abuse of power. So our online efforts are focused on reaching them where they get their news and educating them on the ways Roy Barnes arrogantly led and disastrously managed Georgia during his one term as governor," Schrimpf said.

Emil Runge, a spokesman for Barnes, said the campaign sees its site as a success.

"Voters are very concerned about Congressman Deal's ethical problems and his title as one of the "Most Corrupt Members of Congress." To date, thousands of voters have logged onto whatisdealhiding.com to sign the petition urging Rep. Deal to release his personal and corporate tax returns," Runge said.

 

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