The Ineffective Republican Smear Machine

There seems to be a theme developing this year -- if the final results end up reflecting the current polling that is. Barack Obama promises a deliverance from the "politics of the past", the "politics of division." He says often that "the American people are smarter than that" and so far his "faith in the American people has been vindicated." We just might be seeing that he's right. Greg Sargent breaks down the latest WSJ/NBC News poll internals:

- Despite months of attacks on Obama's allegedly sinister background and cultural identity, a solid majority of likely voters, 57%, say that Obama has a background and set of values they can identify with, versus only 39% who say he doesn't. Those numbers are virtually identical to McCain's, which are 57%-38%.

- Asked which would concern them more about an Obama presidency, his lack of experience or the possibility that he would raise taxes, 14% cite taxes and 20% cite inexperience. Forty-eight percent -- more than those two combined -- say that "neither is a concern." This, despite weeks of attacks on Obama as a lightweight and empty suit who wants to hike taxes on ordinary plumbers and hockey moms everywhere.

- Despite all the attacks suggesting that Obama harbors a secret and shadowy agenda that he has yet to reveal, a huge majority of 67% say that they know what Obama and Biden would do if elected.

Along the same lines, look what's happened to the North Carolina Senate race in the wake of Elizabeth Dole's "Godless Americans" ad. This is more than simply evidence that the strategy didn't work; according to Public Policy Polling, it is actively backfiring.

Elizabeth Dole's 'Godless Americans' ad has clearly blown up in her face, as Kay Hagan has now expanded her lead to seven points.

The ad may have helped Hagan to get Democrats unified around her, as that's where most of the movement in the last week has come. Where Hagan led only 76-18 within her party a week ago, those numbers have now improved to 83-14. The excess nastiness of the ad may have lost Dole any reputation she might have had as a moderate or bipartisan type, causing her to lose a decent portion of her crossover support.

If Republicans have as bad a night tomorrow as it's looking like they will, the right's misguided reliance on these tactics will be partially responsible. Who could blame them though, this shit has worked in the past (although there was evidence even from 2004 that Bush going negative may have hurt him more than Kerry ultimately.) Will the utter ineffectiveness of the right's patented slash and burn politics in 2008 mark the end of them? I wouldn't go that far but an Obama win would show that even in politics, doing the right thing and doing the politically expedient thing are sometimes the same.

Tags: Barack Obama, elizabeth dole, John McCain, Kay Hagan, NC-SEN, republican smear machine (all tags)

Comments

9 Comments

Re: The Ineffective Republican Smear Machine

While I will grudgingly admit, based on results, that some negative campaigning works - all negative campaigning does not.

It's one thing to throw negatives ads and talking points out there mixed in with your own positive message about what you would do as president. However, doing nothing or appearing to do nothing, but negative campaigning really only tells the voter why they shouldn't be voting for your opponent and not giving them a reason to vote for you.

This to me is one of many failures on the part of the McCain campaign.

by jsfox 2008-11-03 08:44AM | 0 recs
The Rovian smear tactic jumped the shark

with the Paris Hilton celebrity ads during the summer.  That was a sure sign that the republicans had bought into their own propaganda and no longer realized that they were now completely out of touch with the mood of the general electorate.  

by ProfessorReo 2008-11-03 08:54AM | 0 recs
Re: The Ineffective Republican Smear Machine

I can definitely see the right-wing of the Republican party arguing that the mistake McCain made was not smearing Obama enough. Not bringing up Rev. Wright. Telling the woman who thought Obama was an Arab that Obama is a good and decent American. And on down the line.

There will be a huge argument in their party over whether they lost because they weren't negative enough, or because negativity doesn't work. I expect the former camp to win; look for even nastier campaigns in 2010.

by fsm 2008-11-03 09:05AM | 0 recs
Re: The Ineffective Republican Smear Machine

Sadly, I have to agree.  Especially since Palin and Joe the Plumber seem to be leading the list of future contenders:-(

I don't get any particular joy out of the Republicans being so bad.  Sure it makes it easy to decide which way to vote, but I'd rather have the dilemma of two decent options.

by nintendofanboy 2008-11-03 10:05AM | 0 recs
Wright ads are up in NM

They must truly be desperate.  Some October surprise; trotting out April's "scandal."

by NM Ward Chair 2008-11-03 12:24PM | 0 recs
% of Undecideds Do Not vote

I keep hearing from the talking heads that a % of undecideds will not vote.  

Is that true and what is the historical %

Thanks

by Organic George 2008-11-03 09:22AM | 0 recs
Re: The Ineffective Republican Smear Machine

The smears didn't work because the GOP never figured out how to hit Obama. Hitting Obama for on his "unamericanness" was never going to work because Obama has spent his entire career dealing with that issue.  Moreover, he's a black guy with a Muslim-sounding name, so the hits aren't shocking to anyone.  

Take that in contrast to 2000 and 2004, where Gore and Kerry were attacked in ways that they never were attacked before.  Gore got hit with the exaggerator thing, and he never saw it coming.  Kerry got hit with the Swiftboaters and the flipflopping, neither of which he had ever been hit on before.  When it happened, Kerry didn't have a response.  Obama did.

by Jim Treglio 2008-11-03 11:54AM | 0 recs
Re: The Ineffective Republican Smear Machine
Good points about Gore and Kerry.
Back during the primaries, I supported Hillary because I thought she would be better able to handle the Republican attacks we all knew were coming during the GE.
I think Obama's campaign has handled  all of it brilliantly, and has come through this campaign looking calm and collected, while McCain's negative attacks have lost him any political capital he may have once had with moderate voters.
by skohayes 2008-11-03 12:33PM | 0 recs
Re: The Ineffective Republican Smear Machine

Liddie Dole she has a smear
And put it out for all to hear.
When at last the election's done
Liddie Dole's opponent won!

My apologies to Lizzie Borden's family.

by richardarunachala 2008-11-03 02:37PM | 0 recs

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