How To Attack John McCain: A Search Study
by J Ro, Sat Mar 22, 2008 at 01:55:38 PM EDT
It appears increasingly likely that the primary season will go all the way to the convention in late August (which, if history is any guide, will be really bad), leaving the Democratic party a scant two and a half months to go full-out hammering away at John McCain and the Republican party. Perhaps it's time to start redirecting our attention.
While the outcome of the primary is important, and there are real differences between Obama and Clinton, I'd like to see Democrats coming out hard against McCain. We've got money, media, and the Internet on our side (sometimes), so let's not use all of our firepower shooting at each other.
With that in mind, what kinds of attacks might work against John McCain? With only a short period of time between the end of the convention and Election Day, Democrats won't have the luxury of trying out many lines of attack and seeing what sticks - as they have been able to do during the primary. It is important that we are ready to go after McCain full-tilt on August 29th, and that we're going to battle with the right ammunition.
A few various lines of attack have been floating around the media and blogosphere lately. As a quick sample, here are a few:
- John McCain as old and unstable
- John McCain as angry, with a temper, a hothead
- John McCain as a war hawk who'll keep us in Iraq forever
- John McCain as confused and unprepared (can't tell the difference between Iran and Al-Qaeda for instance)
- John McCain as weak and unprepared on economic issues
- John McCain and his association with radical fundamentalist pastors like John Hagee
- John McCain as a flip-flopper or sellout
My personal favorites are McCain as old and unstable, a war hawk, and weak on the economy. But will these attacks stick?
A very crude but interesting way to decide on the best offense is to examine what lines of attack people are already searching for online. If people are already searching for certain phrases or attacks, it means these memes have already wormed their way into popular society; the more people searching for the line, the more effective it might be.
Google provides a service called Google Trends where you can measure this very phenomenon. A quick look into some popular McCain attacks points towards the right path we should take when going after him, and a quick comparison with some likely attacks by the GOP on Democrats points to strengths and weaknesses in our own strategy.
First, a quick comparison of McCain attacks: This is a relative graph of how many people are searching for the terms "McCain old,""McCain economy,""McCain Iraq," and "McCain Hagee" in the last year.
As you can see, many more people are searching for "McCain old" and "McCain Iraq" than the others. These lines of attack are more integrated into our social fabric than the others. To me, this means they are potentially more likely to be effective.
For comparison, let's look at the keywords "McCain old" vs. a likely line of attack against Barack Obama and his alleged lack of experience:
As you can see, though the "Obama experience" meme is being searched for, "McCain old" is consistantly much more popular. The attack against Obama's perceived lack of experience doesn't seem to be nearly as effective, at least not right now.
As a last comparison, we'll see how our winner, "McCain old," compares to the insidious smear that Barack Obama is a Muslim:
Oh boy...that doesn't look good. Not only has the smear been searched for over a long period of time, but it outperforms our "McCain old" attack hand over fist. It's obviously impossible to say whether this smear will play a role in the general election - it's popularity has been declining steeply as of late - but either way, it's much more prevalent in general society than the idea of McCain being too old or unstable to be President.
We've clearly got our work cut out for us.
Of course, campaigns move quickly, and all of these trends can change overnight. The media, the blogosphere, and the Internet can all affect these trends one way or another. Yet, if the attack has already permeated our collective consciousness, it will be that much easier to make it into a real weapon. If the idea is already floating around in the ether, we don't have to build something from the ground up. We can latch onto the foundation that's already present, which will give us a head start in those mad months between August and November.
From this vantage point, going after McCain as old, unstable, and unfit to lead seems like the most effective thing we've got going now. Do you agree? What's your favorite attack on McCain? What seems most likely to stick?