Friday, July 13, 2012

Go Negative or Go Home

Remember in the days of yore, when the media elites would quickly pounce on presidential candidates (well, Republican presidential candidates) who dared to "go negative"? Witness this article form the New York Times in 2008, chastising McCain for doing just that:
McCain's campaign is now under the leadership of members of Bush's re-election campaign, including Steve Schmidt, who ran the Bush war room that relentlessly painted his opponent in 2004, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, as effete, elite and equivocal. 
The attacks against Obama have been strikingly reminiscent of that drive to tarnish Kerry's name, including the tactic of attacking the opponent's perceived strengths head-on. Thus, the latest ad portrays the huge crowds that turned out for Obama in Berlin not as a sign of his genuine appeal but as a reflection of celebrity-minded superficiality.
The McCain campaign dared to suggest that there was less to Obama than many believed, that his appeal was mostly based on his star-power, not on the actual skill set and policy ideas he was bringing to the table. How evil!

Going back in time, the first Bush was roundly chastised in both 1988 and 1992 for having a negative campaign, as was Reagan in 1984. But all of this pales in comparison to the heat George W. Bush got for his negative campaigns. The erstwhile Dana Milbank jumped on Bush for "unprecedented negativity" in 2004:
Three-quarters of the ads aired by Bush's campaign have been attacks on Kerry. Bush so far has aired 49,050 negative ads in the top 100 markets, or 75 percent of his advertising. Kerry has run 13,336 negative ads -- or 27 percent of his total. The figures were compiled by The Washington Post using data from the Campaign Media Analysis Group of the top 100 U.S. markets. Both campaigns said the figures are accurate. 
The assault on Kerry is multi-tiered: It involves television ads, news releases, Web sites and e-mail, and statements by Bush spokesmen and surrogates -- all coordinated to drive home the message that Kerry has equivocated and "flip-flopped" on Iraq, support for the military, taxes, education and other matters.  
"There is more attack now on the Bush side against Kerry than you've historically had in the general-election period against either candidate," said University of Pennsylvania professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson, an authority on political communication. "This is a very high level of attack, particularly for an incumbent."
Note the date on the piece: May 31st, 2004. Here we are in July, with the Obama Campaign having basically "gone negative" since before Romney was even the presumptive nominee, and what do we find? Not much in the mainstream media about this, not much at all. Well, except for some defensive posturing by Obama's water-carriers:
Perhaps now would be a good time for a quick reality check. Josh Green cited research from Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group, which found that 63,793 presidential campaign ads have been broadcast since the start of the general election campaign on April 10. As Green noted, the data uncovered a noteworthy trend: "Democrats are running a largely positive campaign, while Republicans are running a mostly negative one."
Riiiiiight. There's a chart, too:

Looks damning. And the numbers come from the CMAG, the same place as Milibank's numbers in 2004. But that was back in June, totalling all ads since April 10th, as Romney was just coming out of the primary battles. I don't trust them. Because all of the Obama ads I've seen of late have been negative. You know the ones, about Bain Capital and insourcing/outsourcing. CMAG, in fact, says pretty much the same thing:
Obama and Romney’s ads are exclusively negative, with rare exception. About 98.5 percent of Obama’s ads and 95.6 of Romney’s spots had some negative tone, CMAG data show. A negative ad may include an attack on a candidate or draw a contrast on policy.
There's no positive campaign going on in this election, not on the part of Romney and certainly not on the part of Obama. The media elites know it all to well (for many of them are actively looking for dirt on Romney). Thus, we're not hearing any stories about negative campaigns and how bad such things are. That wouldn't reflect well on the President at all. And we can't have that.

Cheers, all.

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