AUSTIN, Texas — On the front end of the campaign season, punches are already being thrown.

  • Ad paints West as far leftist
  • Some say the ad elevates West’s name
  • Cornyn’s attack was strategic

And we're not talking about the presidential race. Sen. John Cornyn released an ad attacking one of his Democratic challengers, State Senator Royce West. The ad is not only full of punches, but strategy.

"It's interesting that this is starting so early," said Jim Henson with the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas.

This attack ad by the Cornyn camp aired for the first time during night one of the Democratic debates in Detroit this week. It paints Texas Sen. Senator Royce West, who announced he was running to unseat Cornyn last month, as a far leftist.

Henson says the move by Cornyn intentionally elevates West, signaling that he would prefer to run against him, rather than his other democratic challengers.

"You get the direct hit with a presumably mostly democratic audience who says oh, this is who the leading democrat must be, and you raise Royce West's name recognition in a way that actually provides some free campaign advertising to Royce West," said Henson.

Henson believes this is a strategic move that tells us Cornyn is feeling the pressure. He says it also serves as a reminder that the classic attack ad is effective.

"Even though people say they don't like them and don't want to see them, they capture people's attention and they remember the content of them," said Henson.

President Donald Trump's team has also gone negative early on in the campaign season. During the debates this week, Trump took out full-page ads in the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News attacking Democratic candidates. His campaign also had negative ads air on CNN during the Detroit debates.