Sweaty, desperate and losing, McCain camp decides to go negative. Will it work?

As most people here are probably aware, The McCain campaign has now decided that with Obama’s lead ballooning ever more in the polls and McCain, getting no traction from either his fake campaign supension or from Palin anymore,* has decided to “take the gloves off” and go after Obama on personal character.
Palin is out there accusing Obama of “Palling around with terrorists”.

The McCain campaign is tacitly admitting that this is a desperation move, motivated by the fact that McCain is losing miserably on the economic crisis. From the WaPo article:

There aren’t any new revelations in any of this. McCain is just going to the same dry well of Ayers and Rezko, but his campaign is telegraphing that it will go hard to the hole with the personal attacks basically as a last ditch effort to try to drive up Obama’s negatives in some battleground states.

Will it work? I have my doubts. For one thing (like I said) there isn’t anything new here. People already know about Ayers and Rezko and Wright and already decided to what degree they care about them. Kicking the same dead horse is not likely to make any more difference at this point. There’s also the fact that the economy is still in desperate straits even after the bailout. The Dow is falling again today with no end in sight. People are losing money by the shoveful, and I don’t think they want to hear yet again about how Obama served on a couple of charity boards with a college prof who used to be a 60’s radical. They’re more concerned with watching their portfolios and retirement funds evaporate (I’ve lost 25% of my own IRA this year. I can imagine how distressing that would be to someone who’s close to retirement).

I suppose McCain could try to regain some ground in the polls by attemptng to make an argument that his recovery plan would be better than Obama’s, but by climbing aboard the swift boat, he’s giving an impression that he isn’t even paying attention to the economic crisis or that he doesn’t think it’s important.

So what kind of net effect will this strategy have? Will it backfire? Will McCain try to go personal at the debate tomorrow night? I would think he’d want to be careful with that. He lost the last debate because people thought he came off like an asshole in his demeanor towards Obama. If he starts in with “pallin’ around with terrorists” while people want to hear about how and when their IRA’s are going to go back up, I think he could screw himself even worse.

On the other hand, I’m enough of a pessimist to believe that an all out sleaze attack could work. It wouldn’t be the first time. How much should I worry?

*The VP debate did not stop the slide. Despite the giddiness of McCain supporters and Fox News’ all night party after the debate, all the polls showed Biden as the winner by a comfortable margin, Obama has slightly widened his lead since the day of the debate and Tina Fey still wrecked her on SNL.

I’m not resting comfortably, but I’m not panicking either. The worrisome part is the fact that McCain is as desperate as he is. It really looks like he thinks the country owes him the presidency and he’ll stop at nothing to get it. However, the good news of course is Obama’s pledge to not just sit back and take it like Kerry did in 2004 (see the Keating Five video released today on www.keatingeconomics.com for evidence of that).

That said, I hope Obama rises above it in the debate, and hit’s McCain hard for attempting to change the subject from the issues that actually affect Americans’ lives. I want to see Barack deflect McCain’s accusations tomorrow, preferably to such an extent that McCain’s head explodes from anger.

You know what else is going negative? The Dow!

Okay, the OP already went there. But McCain repeating stuff people already heard during the Democratic primary is not going to push this stuff off the front page or out of people’s minds.

If going negative didn’t work then politicians wouldn’t do it. That’s vexing, but it’s reality. This is the first campaign my daughter has followed (she’s 12) and it drives her nuts. I am past jaded, so I just shrug.

Let’s see where the polls are in a couple of days.

I’m still waiting for Jeremiah Wright to stage a comeback, Palin is already using it. I’ll also be shocked if some 527 doesn’t start dog whistling to the racist by the end of the week.

If the McCain’t (as in, ain’t gonna win) campaign sticks to just running ads, no matter how dirty, sleazy, and desperate, I can’t see him winning.

The only two ways I see McCain’t winning is if Obama is assassinated, or the 'pubs rig the votes. Add a third: another 9/11-style attack might do it.

Like slacker said, though, I’m not resting comfortably, yet. But IMO, the economy is too important right now (and it’s too close to the election) for the standings to change.

Yea, in retrospect, the long and somewhat nasty primary was probably somewhat of a blessing in that it got a lot of the obvious “low-blow” attacks on Obama out of the way.

But honestly, I think the current constant flow of bad economic news starting this close to Nov 2nd has basically doomed McCain no matter what he does. Obama could’ve basically gone on vacation after sowing up the Dem nomination, and McCain could’ve spent that time running the best presidential campaign in history, and I’m not sure it would’ve made much difference.

Along the caravan trails lie the bleaching bones of people who knew which way the American people would jump. Rarely, a mangy caravan dog will stop, sniff, and lift a leg, adding one more indignity…

Upon the plains, the herds are restless, nervous. The herd is smaller now, and the scent of recent blood hangs in the air. A snapped twig, the cough of the alpha wolf, and the herd will panic, stampede over the cliffs where Norway meets the sea…

Wednesday is Anything Can Happen Day. So is Monday, Tuesday, Thursday…

Anyone who knows the real John McCain is truly not going to be surprised by this news.

The real question is; when did John McCain change from the spoiled brat of yesteryears to an honorable man? When did he change from “McNasty” to McNice? When did he change from the “I have no need to study and work hard, cos I can just get others to do my work for me” to a man who humbly applies himself conscientiously seeking the best of himself, plus bringing out the best in others to arrive at a consensus or an agreement for the good of all, and not for John McCain? When?

It really has always been about John McCain, and what he feels entitled to.

His decision to pull a woman clearly ill-equipped for the office of VPOTUS, with all of the baggage she carries and throw her into the fray simply because he felt that she would pull together for him the base of the extreme right wing evangelicals and ultra conservatives, plus be his attack dog is a terrific example of who John McCain is. An opportunist and a user. If she succeeds in doing his dirty work and he gets in as POTUS, he’ll treat her just like he has treated every woman in his life before her.

I have no doubt that there’s more to come. If the Bill Ayers or Reverend Wright and Tony Rezcko stuff does not work, I have no doubt that he will play the final card - the “Race Card.”

Yeah, but going negative involves supposedly revealing information about the other candidate. You don’t telegraph it by saying you’re doing it to change the subject. You also don’t do it in place of policy, especially when there is stuff people care about, like now.

The Keating Five is okay, but the erratic charge is going to work much better. See Democratic leaning columnists start to push this - Frank Rich did in the Times on Sunday. See the age issue come up also. What’s going to scare people more - electing a president with some small associations with an old radical, or electing a president who might get diagnosed with dementia in the next few years. (That is the implication.)
Going negative might work, but going negative incompetently won’t.

It’s the stupid economy. Nobody trusts Republicans to reign in Wall Street excesses, and particularly not McCain, who doesn’t understand the economy and must rely on advisers who don’t give a shit about their place in history, only their next job. As a result, McCain as President could only be a follower, not a leader.

That’s even more obvious today. The Keating 5 Scandal was supposed to be McCain’s “Come to Jesus” moment as a politician, when he realized that corruption was rampant in DC and he would be the maverick reformer to put an end to it. He wrote in his autobiography that he made a mistake, and that he agreed with the senate committee when they said he displayed “poor judgment.”

Today, McCain’s lawyer said the Keating Five Investigation was “a political smear job on John [McCain].” And Howell Heflin was a “stooge of the Democratic machine.”

So I guess…McCain was lying before?

I had a horrible dream the other night that he called Obama a “nigger” and as a result, pundits were conducting discussions and debates about whether or not Obama really was one, citing Chris Rock as an authority. I hope I’m not psychic!

Not necessarily. There is a substantial portion of the electorate that tunes out the horse race until the final few weeks. I always use my mother as an example of this type of person; God love her, she’s a wonderful person, but she keeps her eyes very close to her own ground most of the time. If you were to quiz her about Ayers and Rezko, I’m not even sure she’d be able to tell you whether they’re Obama’s headache or McCain’s, let alone the specifics thereto. She’s exactly the sort of person who will be targeted by this last-minute bombardment.

I don’t think the McCain camp has a choice at this point. After a short boost with the nomination of Palin, the poll numbers have been dropping sharply and steadily. The combination of Palin being exposed and the financial crisis are killing his chances. He is now desperate but apparently not very competent at going negative.

By aggregate polls McCain is down by6% and that worse yet by the electoral mapit looks far worse. Obama appears to have a lead of 264 to 163 with only 111 as toss ups and Obama is leading in many of those toss up states. McCain actually had a small lead on September 20th. Obama is now showing his best numbers. McCain simply had no more tricks to pull but to go dirty. He knows he won’t win the debates when he could not hit one out of the park in the Foreign Policy Debate. There is no effective damage control for the Katie Couric interview.

Nationally Obama has a 6% lead now, but September 15th McCain was up by around 2%. So it has be a 8 point shift in a short time.

Polls over the last few days show very little substantive movement, which suggests that, at least so far, the “pal around” attack didn’t work. It may take a week to see if the smear campaign has traction.

There always comes a moment in a campaign where public opinion becomes set, and while the polls have not been stable long enough to say for sure, I think we may be reaching that point pretty soon. I’d say that if the better election prediction algorithms say more or less the same thing next Monday as they do now, that’s the way it will end up, give or take a state or two (and two states doesn’t save McCain now.)

Negative campaigning only works if

a) You’re in a stage where people can be swayed, and
b) You don’t try to go a bridge too far.

In both cases I think McCain/Palin might ber hosed, and I’m not seeing this thru partisan blinders; a month ago McCain really was winning, I thought. He’s really blown it since and I think he’s blowing it now because

a) In terms of timing I think this is coming too late. I think opinions are setting, and
b) They’re getting very close to going that bridge too far.

Palin’s “pals around” comment reminded me of the “soldiers-in-the-streets” ad from Canada’s 2006 campaign. Desperate and panicking, the Liberal Party produced an ominous, threatening ad that said, in so many words, that the upstart Conservatives were going to declare martial law if elected. (This is a claim roughly on par in likelihood with, say, claiming that Barack Obama will make Christianity illegal, or that John McCain will order the summary execution of all people who look Chinese.) The result of the ad - which only aired once in Quebec and was pulled - was to effectively inoculate the Conservatives from all further attack ads. Since the ad was risibly dishonest and a total joke, it rendered all other Liberal negative ads useless; nobody trusted anything they said, and anyway were too busy making up parody ads.

If the Republicans go just one step further, they may have a soldiers-in-the-streets fiasco. Palin stepped right up to the edge, I’d say.

I think McCain’s only chance now is an epic debate victory.

Mr. Sunshine, here, checking in. Whoever wins this election is going to wish to God they hadn’t.

I disagree strongly. The downside is that it will be tough to navigate the current woes, but if successful the President of the next four to eight years could go down as an all time great. They could be ranked with Reagan, the Roosevelts, Lincoln, Jefferson and Washington. The worst case is that just one more Supreme Court Justice to the left or the right will have a large impact at this point. The Court is very much on the razors edge now. So even if the next term is a disaster, either candidate will leave a legacy in the form of his appointments that can be lasting and huge.

This is still a crisis we can work our way out of and recover. Both men are better suited to the job than the current bozo in chief and his evil puppet master.


I was nervous, but reading statistical projections like 538 kept me sane. Those guys nailed the convention bounces perfectly.

You need to check out the latest issue of Rolling Stone. It’s a devastating destruction of the McCain Myth.

I see two good reasons to believe McCain’s last-ditch attempts to go negative are more likely to backfire.

First, Obama has already had to endure much of the Wright/Ayers issue during the relentless primary less than six months ago; there really isn’t any new mud here. By contrast, McCain was never attacked in his primary for his partially-exonerated role in the “Keating Five” scandal, and given the current economic crisis tying McCain to an old scandal that seems freshly relevant will have far more impact than a rehash of a recent cultural issue that, in retrospect, seemed like desperation when Mrs. Clinton tried it.

Second, prior to about mid-summer, McCain assiduously courted the press with full access in his “Straight Talk Express” bus/plane; remember the old right-winger joke about McCain and the MSM, “otherwise known as ‘his base’”? In recent months he’s started to push them away as part of his campaign strategy–there was the vitriol for “N-B-C!” at the convention, the recent decision to bar Maureen Dowd from his campaign airplane, and the complaint about “gotcha reporting” in the wake of Palin’s awful interview with Katie Couric.

Whatever your position on these, it’s clear McCain is biting the hand that fed him, and many in the press are reacting as expected: They are getting more aggressive inscrutinizing his campaign’s statements, and take a look at this AP report on Palin’s attempt to tie Obama to Wright and Ayers, remarks delivered at a carefully-orchestrated campaign event in Florida this morning:

Without a compliant MSM willing to swallow McCain’s statements whole–or at least dismiss them with the usual, blithe “political as usual” shrug–McCain’s going negative won’t be nearly as effective.