The Election of 1980

The ad below was run in 1980 by the Ronald Reagan campaign for President.  Reagan, a Republican, ran against the incumbent Democrat, Jimmy Carter in the general election.  Congressman John Anderson, also a Republican, ran as a third party Independent or National Unity Party candidate in that election as well.  The man that you see in the ad is neither Reagan nor Carter.  It is not Anderson for that matter.
The speaker is then-Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy who ran for President in the Democratic primaries against Carter.  Kennedy attempted to capitalize on his name and his left-leaning populism against the unpopular Carter.  Kennedy’s campaign sputtered at the start and the Senator never really mounted a challenge to Carter throughout the primary season.
What Reagan’s campaign did with this ad was to use Kennedy’s words against Carter in the general election.  This is sometimes called a “them on them” ad.  It is where a candidate uses the words of his opponent’s former opponents against him.  In this case, Reagan uses the words of Kennedy against Carter.  Reagan does not have to say a word in the ad.  The goal is to get dissatisfied Democrats to switch parties on Election Day and support the Republican Reagan.
Do you believe that ads of the “them on them” variety are effective?

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11 responses to “The Election of 1980

  1. I’m a little indifferent about whether they’d be effective or not. I would say that they can be effective because, although it’s not the candidate himself speaking negatively on his opponent, it’s someone else who has experience with this person who is speaking negatively on them. Typically, when you trash talk about someones beliefs and the way they work, it’s not typical for the opponent to change their views and ways of thinking overnight. Usually when people hear bad things about someone, no matter who it is or what the circumstances are, they usually keep those words in mind.
    On the other hand, in someways it’s possible they aren’t effective because the person talking about them may have a bad reputation themselves, the timing may be off or out-of-date and have nothing to do with the election it’s being used for or the opponent may have gained a better reputation and overtime (depending on when the bad mouthing was) may have changed his ways. I think it can just be a little of both, it just depends on the specifics of the situation.

  2. The “them on them” ads are not effective, because if Kennedy had made valid and agreeable points in the first place then he would be the one running against Reagan and not Carter. It is a good idea to look back at the old opponents and figure out how to strengthen their points, but not to take them completely. Candidates should find better ways to get democrats to vote in a republican favor.

  3. Elizabeth Lenz

    i do not think that these ads are effective because if someone had already said these things and the person running had already won a previous election that obviously the things that these people had said had no influence on the public. The just end up looking like they are taking someone elses ideas and passing them off as their own.

  4. Anything can be effective or ineffective depending on the usage. How it is applied is what matters. The situation and context has to be taken into account. If Ronald Reagan got more supporters because of the ad, then I’d say yes it is effective in this case. But just because it is effective for Reagan does not mean that it will be effective every time. It is a neat strategy to use and I like the idea. It’s fair game.

  5. The”them on them” ads are extremely effective from my point of view. If I were watching the ad of Kennedy speaking against Carter, I would think that if Kennedy isn’t even for his own side, Carter, then why should I be for a Democrat. I think that was Regan’s intension, to make it appear that even Carter’s own side doesn’t support him. This is smart on Regan’s part because Regan doesn’t have to say a word and the ad is pushing people in Regan’s favor.

  6. I do not believe the “them on them” ads to be effective. People are really set in their ways when it comes to being in a party. Changing parties is a big deal that will not be done by a thirty second ad. I would not change parties because of an ad like this.

  7. I do not believe the “them on them” ads to be effective. There is three reasons why this strategy will not work first is because all Ted did is blaming the bad economic and bad situation at President Jimmy Carter. Ted try to make Carter look like the bad guy and he is not a judge so he did not have the right to judge anyone. Secondly Carter has more credibility than Ted at least he is the President and i think majority of Americans believe in their President better than a nut head senator from Massachusetts. Thirdly the main purpose of this ad is trying to help Reagan ‘s campaign not Ted’s campaign win a better reputation against the rest candidates.

  8. Magdalena Kurnat

    “Them on them” ads are effective because they show how individuals in same party oppose each other. It shows a weakness that they can’t agree on many issues and and in this case how the democratic party was not uniformed in their ideas. Ads like this can show how opposed the party is on the inside and can swing voters to the other party.

  9. Jennifer Hendel

    At first thought I would say no I do not believe that the “them on them”ads are effective. The more I think about it the more I think that using this type of ad actually does seem as though it would be effective. After viewing the ad displayed I can see why Reagan used the words of Kenndey to show the public that others have the same strong opinions against Carter. The ad shows that Reagan is not the only political voice that is against the views of Carter and this would help Reagans campaign by showing the public that there are other important people that speak out against Carter’s views.

  10. Cristina Calderon

    I do not believe that ads of the “them on them” variety are effective. I do think that it is unfortunate that politicians say awful things in opposition to their same-party opponents when running in the primaries and then when it’s time for the general election they praise them and campaign for them. I wish there was a better way. The reason I think the “them on them” ads don’t work is because the public realizes what the politicians are doing. They are just saying “I’m better than my same-party opponent right now”; not that the other parties are better than them. Because of our two-party system it’s hard to use someones own party against them. It’s more likely the Democrats would think, “Oh, those Republicans are just playing dirty” than to switch parties because of the ads alone.

  11. what the ad shows that Carter’s party is even against him. Ted Kennedy words do appeal to people , no more high inflation, and no more hostages. Reagan does not have to speak since Kennedy did all the speaking for him , the words were not used out of contexts.

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