I'm a Negative Creep and I'm Stoned

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There's not a lot of point to tracking the day-to-day presidential polls: Before Labor Day, none of these horse race numbers matter. The internals of this new CNN poll (which shows Obama basically static since last month, with the Europe trip a wash-out) are compelling, though:

The poll suggests few of the McCain campaign's criticisms of Obama's trip have stuck, especially charges Obama was presumptuously acting as if he had already won the election and claims he nixed a visit with injured troops because members of the media could not accompany him.

Instead, more than two-thirds of voters surveyed said the trip was appropriate for a presidential candidate, and 72 percent said they think Obama cares about veterans and the troops in Iraq.

A third of voters polled said they believe Obama is arrogant, about the same number who said that of McCain.

Also: "Forty percent say he is attacking Obama unfairly, while only 22 percent say Obama is unfairly attacking McCain." I'm getting deja vu. McCain lost the South Carolina primary for a lot of reasons, but a big one was his angry meltdown brought on by Bush's negative attacks (most of which were about McCain's economic centrism and Senate votes). McCain slapped back with this:

It was a beautiful gift for Bush. Comparing a fellow Republican to Clinton a short year after McCain had voted to remove Clinton from office was unthinkable to South Carolina voters. On election day, after weeks of a multi-million dollar, brutally negative anti-McCain campaign, only 35 percent of them said Bush "attacked unfairly." Forty-three percent said that about the senator with the black baby.

It's really hard to tell when an attack will backfire, but at the rate McCain's cranking out attack ads and lines about Obama lusting "to lose the war," the higher the odds he'll wreck his image. And then Obama can say whatever he wants about McCain without much blowback. I can't believe McCain doesn't remember how this works.

In weirder campaign trail news, the dead-end Hillary supporters (the PUMAs) invite say-anything Clinton backer Lanny Davis on their radio show. It's sort of surreal to hear Davis making the case that Hillary supporters are irrational sore losers.

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  1. Whatever else, going negative this early, *Especially* if you believe your opponent to be the media’s darling, is really fucking stupid.

    On that basis alone I’d question his decision-making skills, except I hear he’s not a details guy, so I’ll just blame him for delegating to incompetents.

  2. It’s really hard to tell when an attack will backfire

    It is also hard to tell when an attack will stick.

    Hey Weigel how about at the end of this article you post all the reason links on the subject of how Negative ads and partisanship is good for libertarians?

  3. It’s really hard to tell when an attack will backfire, but at the rate McCain’s cranking out attack ads and lines about Obama lusting “to lose the war,” the higher the odds he’ll wreck his image. And then Obama can say whatever he wants about McCain without much blowback. I can’t believe McCain doesn’t remember how this works.

    Whatever else, going negative this early, *Especially* if you believe your opponent to be the media’s darling, is really fucking stupid.

    I agree with you both, but as always, the question you have to ask yourself when critiquing a bad message from McCain is, “Well, what else is he supposed to talk about?”

    It’s easy to say X or Y or Z isn’t going to work for McCain, but realistically, what is? It’s not like the Republican nominee in 2008, who happens to be short and old and grouchy, and is running against a Kennedy/Reagan/Clinton/Bush-level political communicator, has all of these terrific campaign strategies just sitting there waiting to win him the election.

  4. Kennedy/Reagan/Clinton/Bush-level political communicator

    Weirdest fucking list ever!!!

  5. I agree with you both, but as always, the question you have to ask yourself when critiquing a bad message from McCain is, “Well, what else is he supposed to talk about?”

    “Obama has not picked up any ground against McCain on foreign issues and some 52 percent think McCain would do a better job than Obama on the war in Iraq — virtually the same number who felt that way in April.” Video Watch Obama’s speech in Berlin ?

    The poll also shows McCain with an edge on terrorism, Iran, Afghanistan and the Middle East. Every foreign policy and national security issue tested tilts toward McCain: terrorism, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Middle East, Iran, and immigration.

    My guess is he should talk about these things.

  6. And yet, the campaign has decided it’s better off going negative, joshua.

    McCain still gets a lot of credit for “standing up to Bush,” so perhaps he doesn’t want to make Iraq and Afghanistan central to his campaign messages because he’s afraid the public will side with him less as his positions become better-known.

    He’s trying to pull off a tough trick – turn his advantages on national security issues into a character-based campaign instead of an issues-based campaign, while his opponent pushes the actual issues.

  7. And yet, the campaign has decided it’s better off going negative, joshua.

    I might have read it wrong but I thought your thing was that McCain had nothing else to talk about.

    He has lots to talk about…I will agree that what he is talking about is a dead end and won’t help him but i disagree that he has nothing else to talk about and i will disagree that being negative about what he chooses to talk about is bad for him.

    Or bad for candidates or for democracy in general.

    Candidates criticizing their opponents is a good thing.

  8. joe, are your tires properly inflated?

  9. How can McCain critize Obama for traveling to a foreign country during the election when he just visited Canada. How is campaigning in Germany any different?

  10. These comments from Republicans about how the Democrats want to “lose the war” always strike me as being bizarre, as they’ve never actually given us any information as to what counts as a “win.”

    What the hell has to happen for us to “win” in Iraq? Depose Saddam and his party? Check. Get an Iraqi government up and running? Check. End sectarian violence? Christ on a badger, this is the Middle East. Those kooks have been killing and warring with each other since recorded history began.

  11. It was pretty amazing to hear how honest Lanny Davis was in that interview. He told them you couldn’t change the rules after the game was over and basically admitted Hillary would have done all of the same things Obama did if their roles were reversed. I listened to it live, so I got to watch all of the PUMA heads exploding in the chat room. They threw poor Lanny under the bus without hesitance. Here are a few of the comments I screen-capped:

    stateofdisbelief: Lanny…please crawl back up obama’s butt and stop punishing us with the drivel

    Jill L: LOL… guess he left… faster than a speeding bullet
    stateofdisbelief: Obama’s butt cheeks were calling

    zekesgal: Lanny wants us to ride the unity jackass

    free puma: lanny is acting like a weenie now

    island in Illi: yes, gtf off the air

    and my favorite…

    zekesgal: he can shove Roe vs Wade…I don’t have any female parts left!

  12. joshua,

    I might have read it wrong but I thought your thing was that McCain had nothing else to talk about.

    My point was that McCain has nothing to talk about that can help him.

    Douglas Fletcher,

    I think so. I haven’t checked them in a while. I do so little driving, I fill up less than once every two weeks. Yours?

  13. Better check them in-between learning Spanish. Remember, Obama is going to make you work.

  14. David:

    Comparing a fellow Republican to Clinton a short year after McCain had voted to remove Clinton from office was unthinkable to South Carolina voters

    Why? It’s if McCain had voted against jettisoning Clinton that it seems would have made the attack ineffectual. Is there any polling data to lend support to the contention that comparing Bush to Clinton really turned off the voters?

    BTW, note that McCain was talking about what to do with the surplus. Surplus- Gee that sounds nice.

  15. Damn it! One of these 2 is gonna be pres. We’re either gonna be in danger of having creeping socialism turn into a gallop or be in danger of wars without end. It’s depressing… Sometimes it makes me think that?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_04VjebjHkU&feature=related

  16. We’re either gonna be in danger of having creeping socialism turn into a gallop or be in danger of wars without end.

    What the hell are that “either,” “in danger of,” and “or” doing there?

  17. -%,

    I’m an optimist.

  18. Typically the Republican candidate gains 15 points between summer and the election in Nov. Polls just before the election also tend to underestimate Republican election day numbers.

    McCain in a blow out.

    BTW the wars will depend on what the Muslim fanatics do. In Iraq they targeted civilians and did 90% of the killing.

    But I suppose Muslim attacks in India are Bush’s fault.

    But hey. I have a winning foreign policy slogan for Libertarians:

    “Stupidity begins at the water’s edge.”

  19. What the hell has to happen for us to “win” in Iraq?

    Throw me a softball why don’t you.

    A win: the Iraqi government feels strong enough to ask us to leave.

  20. A win: the Iraqi government feels strong enough to ask us to leave.

    Then I guess we’ve won!

    YAY!!!

  21. M. Simon:

    Typically the Republican candidate gains 15 points between summer and the election in Nov.

    If true, I hope that it works for GOP congressional candidates instead of John McWar.

  22. M. Simon:

    A win: the Iraqi government feels strong enough to ask us to leave.

    The term, “a win” in this war that should never have been fought, and that we were lied into has no applicability.

    But note that the Maliki government has asked our government to establish a timetable for departure from their country. And in a poll, a majority of Iraqi parliament members have said that they want our military to split from their country right now!

  23. Doug Fletcher,

    Since I am neither a child attending school (the comment about learning Spanish) nor an Obama campaign volunteer (the subject of the comment about making you work), I’ll have plenty of time to check those tires.

    Still, I sure do get a shiver down my spine at the thought of a president who thinks that schools should teach Spanish and campaign volunteers should work. The horror. The horror.

  24. What I’m not liking about this election is allt he negative stuff that’s not allowed to be discussed may just keep Obama from being elected. And if that happens the entire Obama loving media will insist there was electoral chicanery, which will be unpleasant for the next 4 years and make the illigetimacy of the Bush regime look a resounding acceptance.

  25. Quick, somebody shout “Paging a Mr. Dondero, Mr. Eric Dondero” to see if “M.Simon”‘s head pops up.

  26. M. Simon:

    But I suppose Muslim attacks in India are Bush’s fault.

    The important thing is that our government’s foreign intervention led to the 9/11 attacks-specifically its support of the Israeli government’s occupation of Palestine.

    Note that the findings of the 9/11 commission reveal:

    “Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the man who conceived and directed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, was motivated by his strong disagreement with American support for Israel, said the final report of the Sept. 11 commission.”

    http://www.kentucky.com/mld/heraldleader/news/nation/9222612.htm

  27. You are right, David, the polls don’t matter much, now, given Obama has decided he doesn’t really want the job.

    From the other day, at the UNITY ’08 Conference in Chicago:

    “I consistently believe that when it comes to whether it’s Native Americans or African-American issues or reparations, the most important thing for the U.S. government to do is not just offer words, but offer deeds.”

    It would have been nice if Obama would have brought this up way back in Iowa when he was courting the white liberal vote from folks who were attracted to his post-racial rhetoric and of whom would have never voted for Al Sharpton because of extremist policy positions like this but what can you expect, honesty?,

    Any competent Republican campaign would simply blow him out of the water at this point. Imagine a commercial showing two good looking, well off black girls playing on the playground of an upper middle class private school, and a simple rhetorical point is asked:

    ‘What do your kids owe Obama’s children?’

    Of course, McCain is fully capable of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and it may, somehow, miraculously, not even come up as an issue in this oddest of campaign seasons, but if Obama is really trying to screw up his own chances, he’ll find another means.

  28. But I suppose Muslim attacks in India are Bush’s fault.

    I propose that we replace the term “straw man” with “T-ball.” You set the ball on the T because it’s so much easier to hit, and even the 4 year old girl with the bad leg can get a hit.

    T-ball is a good way to work on your swing, M. Simon.

    Lemme know when you’re ready to hit live pitching.

  29. going negative this early, *Especially* if you believe your opponent to be the media’s darling,

    Maybe, but it may also be that you have to go negative early when your opponent is bathing in wall-to-wall media adulation.

    Personally, I would be phrasing my “negative” attacks as questions, though.

    “Why does he keep referring to himself as the President already?” [follow with clips of Obama talking about “other presidents” and the like].

    Riskier: “One thing I really thought was exciting about Obama was his promise to be the post-racial candidate. Why does he keep bringing up his race? What relevance does that have to whether he will be a good President or not?” [follow with clips of Obama raising his race].

    Any competent Republican campaign would simply blow him out of the water at this point.

    Obama is eminently beatable, although McCain is determined to throw away the two issues that will beat him – taxes, and oil.

    I’m beginning to think we’ve pretty much seen the top of the Obama market. If the victory parade didn’t move his numbers, nothing that he can do will. If he wins, it will be because McCain couldn’t be bothered to put together a decent campaign.

  30. “Commerce with all nations, alliances with none… “

    Thomas Jefferson

    So let’s save the guns and the bombs for our own defence against actual threats and also, let’s get the capitalism going.

  31. Maybe, but it may also be that you have to go negative early when your opponent is bathing in wall-to-wall media adulation.

    It worked for Bush in South Carolina 2000, but there’s an important difference: Bush covered his tracks and minimized the blowback.

    McCain is putting his name on this stuff.

  32. Rick Barton | July 31, 2008, 10:12am | #
    M. Simon:

    Typically the Republican candidate gains 15 points between summer and the election in Nov.

    Like in 1992-2004? Bush 41 was going to get 23 % in 1992? Really?

  33. Maybe it is presumptuous of Obama to act like he’s the president, but I suspect McCain is doing himself more damage by not acting presidential.

  34. Maybe it is presumptuous of Obama to act like he’s the president, but I suspect McCain is doing himself more damage by not acting presidential.

    That is likely true. Neither candidate is a natural like Clinton or Bush the Younger in the campaign swing of things. I wonder how much of Obama’s disposition is merely reflex. Being use to running in Chicago where the Democratic primary is the deciding factor and the November elections a mere formality, it may be less to do with arrogance (‘other presidents’) and more to do with Obama being a creature of habit.

  35. Dukakis in 88 , Gore in 2000 , Kerry in 04 …. are any Dems out there starting to see a pattern ? It is , of course, all my own fault. You see a candidate , you would like to see American take a step forward ,break down a barrier — and a very sharp talented person he is as well — so,you watch, follow and begin to hope … and then you are hit with that hard slap in the face – He is the Democratic Party nominee. Even the Cubs don’t disapoint with this regularity.

    When the bad part of election night is upon you and you wonder when it all started to go wrong.THIS IS IT. The tide is turning against you. I would beseech you to do something ; in the name of the Supreme Court or the poor whose cause you claim to hold, Or The right to choose, or the public schools or African Americans or our countrie’s future, etc.

    But it’s OK , I understand , you just do not have it in you. Another election season of whining about the GOP tactics. Just like the caterwauling in 88 about Willie Horton or 04 and the Swift Boats.And with it another winable election lost , another great opportunity wasted . And with it goes the dreams of so many people of color , who will know better than to trust you again after the searing pain of this — what might have been.

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