Wednesday, November 5, 2008

One reason (among many)? Maybe...

In this post I will call attention to three recent campaigns, and suggest they share something in common.

Campaign #1: U.S. President - McCain (R) v. Obama (D)
As many have observed, McCain's campaign was based almost exclusively on attacking Obama's character (occasionally using Obama's policy proposals as a springboard to character attacks; e.g., Obama's tax-policy led almost immediately to McCain labeling Obama a socialist or a communist).

Obama's negative ads focused on McCain's well-documented association with W's policies & failures. Few, if any, attacked McCain's character.
Obama's campaign also included more than a few positive ads, giving the electorate positive reasons to vote for him.

Obama won.
Campaign #2: NC Senate - Elizabeth Dole (R) v. Kay Hagan (D)
In the final week of the campaign, Dole launched a vicious & false character attack on Hagan - the infamous "Godless" spot.

Dole had led in the polls through mid-September. She was, after all, the incumbent!

After the spots, Hagan surged ahead, eventually upsetting the incumbent Dole.
Campaign #3: NM1 - Darren White (R) v. Martin Heinrich (D)
Both campaigns ran negative ads.

Heinrich's negative ads focused on White's record as Bernalillo County Sheriff and in previous state government jobs.

White's negative ads were without exception attacks on Heinrich's character ("liar", "law-breaker", "untrustworthy").

White ran NO positive ads - ads that told the electorate why they ought vote for him.
Heinrich DID run positive ads - ads that told the electorate why they ought vote for him.

Heinrich won handily (11% margin).
In each case the Republican candidate ran a predominantly negative campaign that focused on the Dem candidate's character. "My respected Democratic opponent is an evil person." In each case, this tactic failed miserably.

I hope there might be a lesson here.

1 comment:

  1. Negative adds work to keep people from voting and minority parties always run them so their faithful make up a bigger percentage of the electorate, when things are such a mess negative adds work against those who run them, particularly the attacks against character.