More and Better Bickering


His vote share has plunged precipitiously in the first three contests—30 percent in Iowa, 17 percent in New Hampshire, 4 percent in Nevada—but John Edwards could do well in South Carolina. John Zogby's tracking polls show undecided and soft Obama voters moving to Edwards, enough to potentially give him second place. The reason? Team Edwards thinks it's because of the "bickering" seen in this ad. A radio ad expands the story:

While Senator Clinton and Senator Obama seem intent on tearing each other down, I'm intent on building you up.

This campaign isn't about us personally. It's about what we're trying to do for this country.

And you thought the presidential race was a competition between people who wanted to be president! An easy mistake to make.

Obviously there's a reason why Clinton and Obama aren't "tearing down" Edwards: He doesn't pose a threat right now. It's what happened to John McCain in the summer of 2007, as the rest of the candidates ignored him or complimented him instead of picking apart his record and business decisions. It's too bad, because asking a candidate to respond to questions about those factors sheds more light than asking a candidate what he'll do to fill every lunchbox and tuck in every schoolkid's shirt: what John Edwards wants to be asked. As David Mark argued in "Attack Ads Are Good for You!":

These aggressive tactics not only will bring to the fore important issues but may also shed light on the character of political aspirants. The way candidates respond to negative campaign tactics can be an indicator of how they would perform in public office. If they wilt under attacks or fail to respond to charges, it may be a sign they would not perform particularly well in the rough and tumble of elected office.

Along similar lines, liberal blogger Digby makes quick work of one of Mike Bloomberg's tiresome whines about partisanship.