As of last week, Tracey found, candidates for state and federal office had spent $395 million on ads for the November elections — nearly 40 percent more than at this point in the 2006 midterm elections — and more than half the ads had been negative. Political parties and outside groups had been even more negative, going on the attack nearly 80 percent of the time.
Democrats aren't the only ones accentuating the vicious this year.
In one recent ad, Nevada Republican Sharron Angle pins the state's surging unemployment and foreclosure rate and plummeting home values on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, saying he has "dragged Nevada down to perhaps its lowest point ever."
In Indiana, Republican Dan Coats is bashing his opponent, Democratic Rep. Brad Ellsworth, for voting to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, charging that he wanted to let terrorists into the country and give them the same rights as Americans.
Independent groups advertising on behalf of Republicans have also come out early with an onslaught of negative TV spots that tie embattled Democrats to Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in hopes of making Election Day a referendum on the party's leadership.
Democrats' only hope this fall is to resist that and instead convince voters they'd get a worse deal with Republicans.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the party's House campaign chief, has been making the case on a national level in recent days, saying voters aren't satisfied with things now but don't want to go back to policies that created the current economic mess.
Asked recently whether Democrats were willing to be "cold-blooded" in hitting the GOP with advertising, Van Hollen said, "Our candidates are out there. They're going to be drawing clear distinctions."