Is Negative Campaigning Dead?

Or at least badly damaged?

While the Democrats were not totally pure in the just completed campaign, I think it is clear that the Republicans went a lot more negative. Their numbers seemed to drop every time they did so, and none of the garbage stuck. Has the Rove school of nastiness been discredited at last, or is this just an aberration from the fiscal crisis and Obama’s teflon coating?

I’m interested in official or semi-official ads. I doubt the extremist blogger wingnuts on either side will ever stop.

I don’t know if negative campaigning is dead — but I do think the explosion of the Internet has made it much easier than ever to fact-check campaign statements.

The Internet will have a strange effect on future campaigns. People who want strongly to believe that the opponent is Evil Incarnate will always be able to find rants and screeds, their own personal echo chamber. This probably represents the base, the people who never change their minds.

People who want facts will have them available.

It failed because it flew in the face of what people witnessed with their own eyes.

They knew when they saw the debates and the commercials and the news footage of Obama reacting to the economic crisis that they were not watching a radical terrorist. The McCain smears were so far over the top that they were caricatures of themselves.

But they will always work when they seem reasonably true. It’s easy to paint someone like Kerry as an elitist snob when there’s plenty of footage of him snobbing elitely.

Remember the echo chambers are all open to outsiders. The party operatives of the future will all know about FreeRepublic and the Democratic Underground and even more extreme websites, which means they can take the lies and create responses to them before they infect the people who may change their minds.

This could be very embarrassing for any party because just about everyone seems to attract frightening nutballs your opposition can use to tar your entire base. A few out-of-context (or even in-context) posts from a rather obsessive echo chamber ranter could be blown up into an all-out scandal by the right campaign.

Regarding negative campaigning, it didn’t just not work in the presidential election, it also didn’t work for Elizabeth Dole. Does anyone know what her polls were like before her “Godless” campaign smear? Was that a hail-mary pass out of desperation, or did that ad backfire on her?

Anyway, good riddance to negative ads.

I don’t see why it’ll go away. The economy is the reason the Republicans lost, not their slimy campaigning.

Exactly. It’d be nice to say negative campaigning is dead, but it’s a little silly. The problem here was that some of McCain’s attacks were ridiculous and contradicted the facts as well as his own prior statements - and maybe even more importantly, many of those attacks seemed totally irrelevant in a rather desperate environment.

But politicians are like football coaches and people in a lot of other professions: when they see somebody do something new that works, they try to copy it. So you’ll probably see some more people try to run Obama style campaigns for a while, until something else looks more effective.

I think that as a greater percentage of the electorate becomes familiar with the Web that won’t work, since they’ll understand that there will always be trolls. I do agree that rapid responses of the facts will help. I think we’ve already seen that not understanding the online world is as big a handicap as not understanding telephone banks and mailing lists.

Well, Burton, one could take that position. “It wasn’t the negative campaigning… no no no, it was Palin. No no, it was the economy. It was Bush. It was the war. It was a ‘perfect storm.’ It was Obama’s ground campaign. It was fraud. Obama was too rich. It was blacks. It was the youth vote. It’s nothing we did; no Republican could have won.”

To make such justifications would be dangerous. Are the Republican strategists willing to gamble the next election that it wasn’t the negativity?

Next election you can guarantee that the Republicans will at least consider emulating the Obama campaign’s strategies: staying on-message, raising private funds, organizing a ground game, and possibly, just possibly, using a positive message.

This seems completely unsupported considering Obama was ahead in the polls the overwhelming majority of the campaign. Nor is slimy campaigning separate from people suddenly realizing how tenuous the economy is. The McCain campaign’s response to the financial crisis was to try to push past it and run a smear campaign against Obama. If they had any ideas about the economy, they might not have lost because of it, but they wouldn’t have had to run such a slimy campaign either. It seems to me that if there is a lesson, it should be that if America is against you on the issues, slimy campaigning won’t win it for you. So maybe people won’t waste time on it as much anymore.

I don’t know. The Ayers stuff got repeated over and over, and seemed to be both trivial and an indication of the lack of something to say. The Socialist slur might have gotten a bit more traction. Did it not work because it was an absurd charge, because people didn’t believe a tax cut for the middle class was socialism, or because in the current climate a little bit of socialism sounded downright yummy?

Definitely. I heard a Republican consultant this morning say that campaigns always learn from other ones, and that losing campaigns learn even more. I’m wondering if the message will be that going negative doesn’t work, or that they should have gone negatively more effectively.

When we get back to peace and prosperity the Rovian tactics will be back in full force. Its very hard to worry about the brown man next door when your house is on fire.

Negativity has been part of all political campaigns from day one. Maybe as has been postulated its getting harder to use effectively because people have more resources, i.e. the internet however when I turned on C-Span this morning the first thing I heard was some woman from Texas outraged that an associate of terrorists was going to the White House.

Maybe by the time my generation has nearly passed it will no longer be effective, or equally likely news ways of spreading lies effectively will have been developed.

Their campaigning style did not transcend the issues. Therefore it was ineffective. As such, they did not lose because of it, but they didn’t win with it either.

But there is negative campaigning and negative campaigning. Nothing we do today is worse than what they did in 1800, but I don’t recall so many outright lies. Saying Obama is inexperienced, for instance, is negative in a sense but well within reasonable bounds of political discourse. Calls about McCain’s black baby isn’t. I don’t recall such slime even from Nixon.

What do the Republicans take away from this election, strategy-wise?

1776, Jefferson’s camp accused President Adams of having a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”

In return, Adams’ men called Vice President Jefferson “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”

Look up James Callendar Jefferson’s hatchet man who coincidently drowned in knee deep water after Jefferson had no more use for him.

  1. John Quincy Adams labeled a pimp, and Andrew Jackson’s wife getting called a slut.
    As the election progressed, editorials in the American newspapers read more like bathroom graffiti than political commentary. One paper reported that “General Jackson’s mother was a common prostitute, brought to this country by the British soldiers! She afterward married a mulatto man, with whom she had several children, of which number General Jackson is one!”
    In 1884 elections, Republicans accused Democratic presidential nominee Grover Cleveland of fathering and abandoning an illegitimate child. The Republicans capitalized on this accusation by repeating the pithy rhetorical jab, “Ma, ma, where’s my pa?” in ad campaigns.

Not much is new under the sun. If any thing we’re a little tamer these days.

The illegitimate-child part was true, but the abandonment part was not. That, and the fact that he didn’t try to cover it up when the story first broke, may have contributed to the story blowing over fairly quickly.

Non-hyperpartisans found the charge ridiculous and tacky, I think. Nobody (practically at least) wants a bit of socialism.