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July 25, 2014

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Does a political ad need to be negative to be effective?

Dina Titus ad

Joe Heck ad

Republican House candidate Joe Heck chose the warm, fuzzy approach for his first television commercial in the 3rd Congressional District.

"In times of crisis, a helping hand, a caring touch," a woman's voice says in the ad. "Dr. Joe Heck saves lives."

The ad never mentions Heck's opponent, Democratic incumbent Rep. Dina Titus. Instead, it introduces Heck as an emergency room doctor, Army reservist, small business owner and family man.

The tone of Heck's ad is markedly different from his opponents'. Titus recently released a television commercial that aggressively attacks Heck on his ideas for job creation.

"Sen. Heck doesn't get it. He's not on our side," a voice in the ad says.

Titus' commercial doesn't mention the congresswoman once, except to say that she approved the ad.

Heck said he purposely chose an upbeat tone for his commercial.

"Our goal is to increase name identification and voter recognition," he said. "I think the best way to do that is through a positive ad that highlights my credentials and what I will bring to Washington."

"That Dina has resorted to negative ads so quickly, I think, says a lot about our perspectives on the race," Heck added.

To be fair, Titus' first ad also was positive, an introductory piece like Heck's that highlighted her record helping homeowners facing foreclosure.

Titus spokesman Andrew Stoddard said the second ad, the negative one, shows the contrast between Titus and Heck and the policies each advocates.

Heck said he hopes to stay positive for the rest of the campaign, but admits, "This is politics. You never know what can happen."

And while some might find Heck's sunny outlook refreshing in this otherwise caustic election cycle, it might not be smart politically, according to one political observer.

"It's a little late for fluffy ads," said David Damore, a UNLV political scientist. "It's a good story, but it would have been a better story in July. Now he should be negative, negative, negative because at this point, all people are hearing are charges."

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