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Idea for ad money a change to believe in

About Eric Heyl
Picture Eric Heyl 412-320-7857
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Eric Heyl is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. His work appears throughout the week.

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By Eric Heyl

Published: Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, 11:59 p.m.

It's probably too late to broker a campaign commercial cease-fire.

It's probably too late, even if someone could make a case for a truce on TV between the Romney and Obama camps for humanitarian reasons.

That isn't stopping Bob Long from trying.

Long, the retired co-owner of a Finleyville manufacturing company, called the Tribune-Review on Thursday looking for a few phone numbers. He sought assistance in advancing an idea that initially seems preposterous.

“I want to try to convince the candidates to pull their ads and use that money for relief efforts on the East Coast,” said Long, 82, of Bethel Park. “Wouldn't that be a much better use of that money? Wouldn't that be wonderful?”

Preposterous? Only until you realize that more than $40 million in televised political ads were purchased nationwide for the presidential campaign's final week, according to CNN. Only until you see that $13.4 million in commercial time was bought just in Pennsylvania, according to the PoliticsPA website.

Now that's preposterous.

Long is correct. His quixotic mission, if successful, would be wonderful for a few reasons:

• It would put the smallest of dents in the cleanup costs associated with Hurricane Sandy, which caused an estimated tens of billions of dollars in damage when it pummeled New York, New Jersey and other parts of the Eastern Seaboard this week.

• It would spare people from the onslaught of campaign commercials that will air right up until the polls open on Election Day and the 2016 presidential campaign officially begins.

Long's idea came to him while he watched coverage of Sandy's aftermath.

“You see all this devastation and destruction, people with 5 feet of sand in their homes,” he said. “And then you see five campaign commercials in a row, just to try to convince the few folks who are undecided. How can you be undecided at this point? What a waste of money.”

When our conversation ended, I attempted to gauge the Obama and Romney campaigns' interest in Long's proposal but got no response from either side. That was unsurprising. The staffs probably were busy trying to purchase the nation's last available TV commercial opening between now and Tuesday: a 20-second slot during a 3:30 a.m. Saturday airing of a “Gilligan's Island” rerun on a station in Albany.

It's unlikely Long would have been deterred even if both campaigns — and the well-funded political action committees that spend millions on commercial time — scoffed at his idea.

“Never hurts to try to start something,” he said toward the end of our talk. “Every now and then, a miracle occurs.”

If Long pulls off this miracle, he'll have the gratitude of a campaign-weary nation.

I guarantee the line to nominate him for sainthood would be far longer than any line at the polls.

Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or




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