Saturday, October 04, 2008

It's About To Get Messy

The McCain strategy is about to shift. They've decided that they need to change the subject of the debate since over the past week things have started looking pretty grim for them. And how are they going to do it? By changing their ads to attack Obama's character. Maybe it's just me, but this screams of desperation. Basically it seems like McCain can't make progress arguing the issues, so let's just turn it into a smear campaign.
Sen. John McCain and his Republican allies are readying a newly aggressive assault on Sen. Barack Obama's character, believing that to win in November they must shift the conversation back to questions about the Democrat's judgment, honesty and personal associations, several top Republicans said.

Luckily Rick Davis, McCain's current chief executive officer of the his presidential campaign knows a thing or two about smear campaigns according this this article he wrote back in 2004. To be fair, in this case the smear campaign in the article was run against McCain. But since they've basically announced that's what they're about to try now, it's interesting to look to see what he thinks needs to happen to make it work since his guy got smeared back in 2000.
The premise of any smear campaign rests on a central truth of politics: Most of us will vote for a candidate we like and respect, even if we don't agree with him on every issue. But if you can cripple a voter's basic trust in a candidate, you can probably turn his vote. The idea is to find some piece of personal information that is tawdry enough to raise doubts, repelling a candidate's natural supporters.

The idea is apparently to try and create some atmosphere where your opponent has to spend all his time correcting the smears and not having time to focus on issues. And what piece of information should you use to smear? Well, according to Rick:
It's not necessary, however, for a smear to be true to be effective. The most effective smears are based on a kernel of truth and applied in a way that exploits a candidate's political weakness.

I was really hoping that since Davis' team was the target of a smear campaign back in 2000 that he would realize how inappropriate it is to engage in something like this. But I guess all he took away from it was that his guy lost and the guy that did the smearing won because in the news now we see Palin making these ridiculous charges that Obama is friendly with terrorists. Yep, from the looks of things it's definitely going to get ugly really quick. Part of me hopes against hope that the American people will look beyond these types of attacks and stay focused on the issues. But somehow I doubt that will be the case.

And there's one final quote in that old article that has to be haunting Rick at the moment.
With few substantive differences between Bush and McCain, the campaign was bound to turn personal. The situation was ripe for a smear.

Wow, so there were only a few substantive differences between McCain and Bush back then? And back then I liked those differences. Now it seems like there are no substantive differences at all. It's times like this I'm sure some people hate the fact that the interwebs makes it so easy to look back on what they said in the past.

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