Listening to some news shows lately (such as Morning Joe), it is interesting to hear them discuss how vituperative the campaign between Romney and Gingrich has become. They discuss how such do not speak much on what they will do, but more on why the other person should not be elected.
As I’ve thought about this I see two issues not being considered.
First, we live in the Internet age. When they say that Reagan and Thatcher did not have to go uber-negative, they neglect to realize that there was no 24 hour news cycle back in the 1980s. Nor were there websites, blogs, or Drudge report. It is easy to destroy the other person by gaining control of the media cycle. Afterward, one can then establish his own credo by explaining his views without a strong competitor.
The second issue is that there have been extremely negative campaigns since the beginning. The media of the day discussed the possibility of Thomas Jefferson having an affair. Reagan was very negative towards Pres Ford in 1976, and would not support him in the convention. There were some very negative campaigning between McCain/Huckabee against Mitt Romney just 4 years ago, including a huge attack on Mormonism.
That today super PACs can be established with endless cash flow for media issues, one can also understand why so much more money will flow through the system this time around.
Does anyone think that there could ever be a successful campaign today with just nice, clean ads?
I think it depends. A lot of money and power is riding on these elections, and shots are being called based on what polling says. If the polls say that the electorate will respond to fear, dirt and lies, that’s what the politicians have to give to survive.
But in certain situations I think that the polls might show that optimism and positive messages cut through. This was somewhat true in the 2008 election.
But this is not true in our current situation, where Romney has failed to present himself as a likable, inspiring candidate to the electorate at large. People will only vote for Romney if they think the alternatives are worse. So the only way forward is for Romney to trash his opponents. Likewise, alternatives like Gingrich are not formidable enough to stand on their own merits, so they have to capitalize on public reticence about Romney, and thus the only way they can get ahead is to keep trashing Romney.
when the electorate is jumpy and scared, as they are during the current recession.
We have the politics we deserve.
Oops, forgot to delete the last two lines, which came from a previous thought I thought I had deleted.
Thanks, Nate, for your comments.
I think there is time and place for both positive and negative comments. The key is to find the right balance. Being early in the campaign, I think using negative campaigning will sharpen the candidates (or weed them out) for the national election.
The 2008 campaign was not a pretty sight, however. Barack Obama spent more money on negative ads against both Hillary and McCain than any other campaign in history. With super Pacs, we should see that steeply climb this year.
I think in this case, it was good to see Mitt hit hard, so that Republicans can see that he is willing to hit hard in the national campaign. However, if he is only negative over the next several months, it will make him look like he has nothing to offer. So, I hope his campaigning in the next few states will be more upbeat and focused on issues and how he can help the nation.