In a year where the issues and the political climate favor the Democrats, it is not surprising the Republicans are using the airwaves to push their message and attack Barack Obama during his convention week. Aside from their surrogates, they have placed ads mocking the Democrats, using material from the primaries where Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden are seen questioning Obama’s capacity to lead. They have had some success.
The ads prior to the convention, very much in the spirit of Karl Rove tactics, have contributed to a tightening in the polls between the candidates. So why stop, they surmise. However, the Republican message of ‘not ready to lead’ probably did more to get Bill Clinton off the fence even though it remains the conversation. Obama will surely address it in some form tonight.
This negative form of campaigning has paid dividends in the past. We all remember the Swift Boat ads or the ‘Wille Horton ads in 1988—all Rove inspired. With the race in a dead heat, many pundits are saying ‘negative works.’ Obama and his surrogates have hit back but there is a fine line between defending yourself and conducting the politics you are purported to run against. The Biden choice will help balance the Obama hesitancy in this regard. But Biden is not Karl Rove. He is a decent man but he will be tough on McCain.
This being said, Obama and Biden are banking on the electorate seeing through this and rejecting this kind of sniping as the old politics of tearing the opponent down with half truths and innuendo. The polls would suggest the opposite. But I am inclined to believe this Republican sniping will backfire.
T. Boone Pickens, the famed oilman and financier of Swift Boat, is now non partisan and pushing a new energy program that appeals to Obama. More new voters are involved. People want real change. The climate is different and once the ad is done, what does McCain offer? Their ads have already got Bill involved and I believe it is just the beginning. Change comes at a price and facing this kind of negative campaigning requires not giving in to the same tactics. Winning by using the high road will prove as Clinton said, that the Democrats are on the right side of history.