Exhibit A: Finger pointing. Mentioning spouses. Direct Personal Attacks.
"I suppose in many ways elections are defined by polarization or we wouldn't need them, but yeah, this (year) is a pretty intense one,' says Prof. Robert Thompson, director of the Blier Center for the Study of TV and Pop Culture at Syracuse University.
A range of experts and observers tell WBEN that a divided electorate, money, and even the media are possibly to blame for the way candidates in both races, have gone toward extreme positions to win hard fought votes.
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One day after President Obama and Mitt Romney tangled in a televised slugfest, Incumbent Cong. Kathy Hochul (D-Hamburg) and former Republican Erie County Executive Chris Collins (R-Clarence) faced each other in a debate Wednesday, their second such event in two days.
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The two traded somewhat pointed volleys in a News 4 Buffalo debate Wednesday, featuring WBEN's Susan Rose as a panelist, and broadcast last night on WNLO-CW23.
"I would say it got personal. They took a few shots at each other. It was feisty and personal," says Rose.
While the WNLO debate Wednesday and a similar WGRZ/WNED one the night before touched on the significant issue differences between the two-- the candidates also took some pointed shots at one another.
During Wednesday's debate , Collins labeled Hochul "no friend of business" and spoke out against her and her husband - US Attorney William Hochul- as public sector millionaires. Hochul touched regularly on Collins demeanor, calling him "polarizing" and suggesting that he could not work with others as an effective legislator.
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-- former Cong. Thomas Reynolds (R-Clarence).
Adds former Congressman John LaFalce (D- Tonawanda) : " The race is extremely close. It is overwhelmingly close because the district is overwhelmingly Republican but Kathy Hochul is extremely popular." La Falce says.
The latest poll from Siena Research Institute has the two candidates tied with 47 percent of the vote and 6 percent undecided, making for a race where the lines between the two are strong and drawn by each other and their advertisements in bold dramatic strokes.
"Both campaigns at both levels are number one, satisfying their base, but they are trying to troll for those independent voters that will likely decide these races," Reynolds says.
Citing the Bush -Gore and McCain-Obama presidential races, Reynolds says the American electorate has been split for several years.
"The public is divided. It's about 50-50 " Reynolds says.
But LaFalce cites a thoroughly different factor
"I've never seen so much money spent in a house race in Western New York, I think it is outrageous," says LaFalce.
The Collins- Hochul race has drawn approximately $3 million of outside advertising touting the candidates. The US Chamber of Commerce, and a National Republican action committee has spent heavily on Collins's behalf. House Majority PAC has reserved $205,000 for Hochul, and the race has garnered significant national attention.
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Prof. Robert Thompson, Syracuse U's Center for the Study of TV & Pop Culture
A final factor that could be driving each side to extremes is possibly the media, according to Syracuse's pop culture maven Thompson
"Maybe the reason it seems more polarized is more places for the various sides of the polarization to present themselves. When I was a kid there were three ntworks and the evening news was 15 minutes long. Now each of the sides has their own cable news network " he says.