Negative Advertising … Epic Fail

Exactly a month before Tuesday’s election, the McCain team announced they were going to go negative.

Sen. John McCain and his Republican allies are readying a newly aggressive assault on Sen. Barack Obama’s character, believing that to win in November they must shift the conversation back to questions about the Democrat’s judgment, honesty and personal associations, several top Republicans said. 

With just a month to go until Election Day, McCain’s team has decided that its emphasis on the senator’s biography as a war hero, experienced lawmaker and straight-talking maverick is insufficient to close a growing gap with Obama. The Arizonan’s campaign is also eager to move the conversation away from the economy, an issue that strongly favors Obama and has helped him to a lead in many recent polls.

"We’re going to get a little tougher," a senior Republican operative said, indicating that a fresh batch of television ads is coming. "We’ve got to question this guy’s associations. Very soon. There’s no question that we have to change the subject here," said the operative, who was not authorized to discuss strategy and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Being so aggressive has risks for McCain if it angers swing voters, who often say they are looking for candidates who offer a positive message about what they will do. That could be especially true this year, when frustration with Washington politics is acute and a desire for specifics on how to fix the economy and fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is strong.

And the result???

 Obama’s favorable rating is 62% — the highest that any presidential candidate has registered in Gallup’s final pre-election polls going back to 1992.

31 replies
  1. GregB says:

    But they ran a Rev. Wright ad on Sunday Night Football!

    What a bunch of hacks…….Between these lame attacks and this cardboard cutout of a human, Joe the Skinhead….that’s all these assclowns have.



      • bmaz says:

        Yep, national. And get this, the McCainiacs are pirating their money left for getting out the vote (and ground stuff takes hard cash baby) in order to run their last minute negative bunk.

      • freepatriot says:

        did you see the bcs standings ???

        tech got some props

        a few bad weeks should cure that …

        an what’s with fookin FLORIDA ???

        whaaaa …

        number 4 ???

        did someone have a brain fart ???

        we lost to a much better team

        so did texas …

        my two favorite teams are Oklahoma an whoever florida plays next …

        • randiego says:

          Heh, now we have four Big-12 South teams in the Top 8. You would have seen a mini-freak-out rant had they allowed PSU at #2.

          I definitely want one of those four teams to play either PSU or Florida in a bowl game.

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        This news alarms me.
        I was just reading over some material about decision-making, and how recent research suggests that ‘undecideds’ may not simply be keeping info from pollsters; they’re keeping it from THEMSELVES.

        Here’s the logic: If I don’t want to think of myself as ‘racist’, then I can’t consciously admit to myself that I’m not going to vote Obama.
        I may be fed up with the GOP, but I’m still having a hard time voting for Obama, so I (consciously) tell myself that I’m an ‘undecided’. That way, I don’t have to confront my own racism.

        Be interesting to find out whether Leen or massaccio run into any voters who mention this tomorrow.
        This won’t throw the election, but I’m sure a few more votes will move to the GOP column.

        The GOP and McCain-Palin know exactly what they’re doing.
        I kind of expect them to tell us tomorrow that Rev. Wright has WMDs.

        It absolutely underscores the importance of one-on-one, personal interactions with voters to overshadow and defeat the kinds of images the GOP is throwing at the US public.

        • randiego says:

          The number of undecideds is shrinking. Remember, something like 30% had already voted when that ad ran… don’t worry, be happy. It’s not working.

          Take a deep breath, re-read Marcy’s post, then go read Sean Quinn’s ‘Big Empty’ at 538. Have you seen this? Go read it, you’ll feel better about things.

          The Big Empty

          I think it’s okay to be confident, as long as people keep working and pushing.

        • TheraP says:

          rOTL, maybe those stuck in unconscious racism, who also don’t want to vote repub, will simply – but unconsciously – find themselves unable to get to the polls. Things will come up and “get in the way.” Honestly, this would not surprise me.

        • bobschacht says:

          B-B-b-but David Broder has already told us how proud he is that Sen. McCain and Sen. Obama have resisted using the Race Card in this campaign. So all those ads about Rev. Wright must be about his “judgment” or his “radical views,” right?

          Bob in HI

  2. Loo Hoo. says:

    I feel bad for John McCain at this point. It’s like his handlers are getting chuckles out of making an idiot out of him.

    He should have free reign to do that all on his own.

  3. freepatriot says:

    in the dictionary under “Able to fuck up a two car parade” ???

    john mcsame

    I would say mcsame could fuck up a free lunch, but I once knew a guy who did that …

  4. freepatriot says:

    is anybody else here a Rotwang fan

    What is best in politics? To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, to hear the lamentations of their women . . .

    my answer:

    gnawin on their skulls, man

    that’s what’s best in politics

    gnawin on their skulls

    I might have been exposed to hunter thompson a little too young …

    • bmaz says:

      Man, you are taking you life in your hands bubba. All I did was be fairly pointed about wanting some national campaign people to, you know, actually campaign in my little metropolitan hamburg of 4.5 million people. Was very perplexed to discover that many people found that to be abusive to the adversary and ungracious. And here you are grilling up skullburgers. Go figure.

      • rosalind says:

        sssh! you’re gonna wake up the “dignity, always dignity” police, and my frazzled nerves ain’t up for another round of “but what about mccain’s feeeeelings” bullshite.

      • freepatriot says:

        adversarial and ungracious are my good qualities


        that’s how polite people put it

        or maybe it’s cuz people still think they can reason with you

        Freepatriot’s handy household tips, part 173

        if you’ve ever been harrassed by Mormons of Jahova’s Witnesses during a busy day, here’s a handy method to make sure they never bother you again

        answer the door naked, and invite them in to talk

        they don’t even make noise when they drop their dliers on my porch. I watched four of em sneak off yesterday …

        most people figure reason is wasted on me …

  5. randiego says:

    Was very perplexed to discover that many people found that to be abusive to the adversary and ungracious. And here you are grilling up skullburgers. Go figure.

    Heh. Actually it was just a few weenies, no?

  6. randiego says:

    PS – Yes, They know what they’re doing. I’m hoping that a big storyline after the election is exactly what Marcy hit on here, that the negative campaigning didn’t work. Maybe, maybe they won’t use it as much in the future.

    We can all dream.

  7. freepatriot says:

    I was readin the comments in my bcs link an I got a question

    when did Joe Pa turn into Rodney Dangerfield

    • prostratedragon says:

      The Ann Arbor answer to that is “1990.” One thing they might agree with in Columbus, Madison, Iowa City, even Lansing. Hell, even Evanston.

  8. dude says:

    I am going to offer some dissent here. McCain did not provide us with epic failure by going negative. I think he would be a lot closer in the polls had he started sooner and his principal mistake was hanging on to his ”maverick” patter. I think he actually has sharpened his attacks lately to a point where, had he used the same attacks two months ago, he would be very much in the running.

    I did early voting and voted against him. Don’t regret it either. But I am an unenthusiastic about Obama. He is running as a Reaganite, and whether he is or is not one is irrelevant. He is going to have to be one if he expects to govern, and that is the problem.

  9. klynn says:

    My 15 year old gets to deliver his “Why Obama and Not McCain Speech” a comparative analysis of presidential policies and campaign strategies.

    The young man did a great job and when one gets to the end of his paper, you have no other conclusion than to pick Obama.

    He went around to some undecideds in our neighborhood and asked if they would read his paper to give him feedback. The feedback, “Jeebus kid, after reading this, clearly, I’m voting for Obama.”

  10. plunger says:

    Finally, Truth is prevailing over Rovian Tactics. The liars are being revealed one at a time, whether it’s McCain with his false advertising claims, Palin with her denial of any wrong doing in the Troopergate affair or Stevens with his other-worldly claim that he wasn’t just convicted of what he was convicted of:….._1102.html

    All roads lead to Rove where the strategy of lying to create an alternate reality is concerned. Make Rove the poster child of the cultural and political hijacking that has gone on these past 8 years, and tie FOX News around his neck so they can both be flushed down the toilet simultaneously, once and for all.

    No more brainwashing, Karl.

    Rove’s crimes are revealed here:

    Karl, you are the scapegoat, and you are going to prison for your crimes.

  11. JimWhite says:

    Yep, we go the good Rev here in Florida. Since I’ve listened to that entire sermon (and am in the process of moving my membership to the local UCC “hippie church”) I like hearing from him…

    Our county is now at 47% of registered voters having voted early or absentee.

    freep: The Gators moved up in the BCS because losses tend to “decay” a bit in the computer models: a recent loss hurts more than one that is farther in the past. Also, the win over Georgia was over the then #6 in the BCS (and preseason number 1 AP) in very convincing fashion. The only Georgia touchdown was in garbage time; the “real” score in that game was 49-3. That’s why the Gators actually even got one #1 in the AP. I was very impressed with the Sooners when I went to their game against Kansas, but they have a very tough road ahead with Texas Tech and Ok State still on the schedule. Texas has the easy road in the South. If you take Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, there are going to be at least 3 more losses to apportion among those teams because of the way they still have to play each other. If the Sooners win out, they’re still screwed because Texas is very likely to win out also and the Sooners would be behind them. How is a three way tie resolved if Texas, Texas Tech and OU each have one loss?

  12. Sara says:

    I agree that once the election is behind us, a good review of how Negative Advertising was used in this campaign would be very much in order.

    It works, but it has to be part of an overall strategy to “paint” the character of the candidate in negative tones, and then narrative builds on that character matter, cementing it in place. It has to be this two stage process, and thus the last minute Negative Ads frequently don’t work if the foundation has not been laid for them fairly early on.

    In this campaign, I think we will find the intended strategy stumbled on the Financial Meltdown and the obvious failure of McCain to comprehend the implications of the crisis and act in a way that inspired trust. Just prior to the meltdown, McCain’s campaign had several negative paint jobs going on Obama, one which might have captured votes being Obama’s supporters “Negative” and “Sexist” attitude toward Palin, who was being presented as the Heroic Mother of Five Kids, etc. etc., The theme of the elitist rejection of the pure as the new driven snow, working class mom. Had this been allowed to develop, it might very well been a winner. But it failed simply because attention shifted away from this kind of cultural theme to the hard rocks of bank failures, crashed 401K’s and the necessity for Presidential Leadership in response to financial meltdown. Significantly it was Palin whose narrative began to tank after the meltdown, largely because what had been constructed for her suddenly became irrelevant. After the meltdown one wanted to see Obama pallin’ around with his set of elite economists and Financial Industry leaders. I think this may turn out to be a classic example of how a set-up for a character attack based in cultural differences and hostility backfired.

    I think it was the intention of the McCain Strategist to wrap racial differences with a many pronged attack of cultural elitism — remember the use of the term “Uppity” in various forms? They wanted to play on Racism and racial turf, but they didn’t want to do it directly or overtly. In the language of George Wallace, you can’t “out seg” your opponent anymore. I suggest what we need to know is how to counter such a strategy without needing a Financial Meltdown to destroy the strategy. In fact, I think what the McCain camp had planned, as I see it, the strategy might well have been successful had not the subject been changed for good by the Financial Meltdown. The intent of the strategy was to divide women voters on cultural and class variables. Setting up the “highly educated, elitist, uppity Negro” against the “traditional Mom who mixes work with raising a brood of children” was designed to get such a division to the benefit of McCain.

    Most of us will want to move on — let’s start constructing the next administration and looking at congressional priorities — and others are going to watch with interest the potential civil war in Republican Ranks — but getting a good understanding of what’s happened over the last year’s selection and election process is quite critical to the future.

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