Presidential Campaign Ads Fly but Californians Irked by Partisanship

We’re six months out and the 2012 presidential race is gearing up. President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney are moving into general election mode. And the Super PACs that support them — and can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money — are charging into the race.

The cash is flowing. The ads are flying. But what will voters take from it all?

The Obama campaign announced it would spend $25 million on ads just in the month of May. The first salvo is a strictly positive ad, touting the president’s hard work to dig the country out of the recession he inherited.

Meanwhile Americans For Prosperity, the conservative Super PAC, has unleashed its own anti-Obama ads, complete with allegations that American tax dollars meant for green job stimulus have been spent overseas.

It’s going to be a long, expensive and probably vitriolic election season. And while California is likely to be spared some of the vitriol, since it’s not a swing state, the question remains: What do we the voters get out of all of this?

The other day KQED got to be a fly on the wall at a couple of political focus groups conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California. The pair of round-table sessions probed the concerns and priorities of Democrats and then Republicans.

Of course the two groups had different views on taxes and spending and the role of government. They even used different language: Democrats talked about kicking in a little more to ”help the weak,” while Republicans worried about too much government “taking away our freedom.”

What the groups shared was a sense of frustration with partisan gridlock and the role of money in politics. Is there any way in this election season to cut through the diatribe and engage in some constructive dialogue? That’s what we’ll be trying to do here.