Posted tagged ‘negative campaigning’

Wrong Tactics or Wrong Time?

May 11, 2010

Next Tuesday, Pennsylvania Democrats will vote in a Senatorial primary. They will choose between 80 year old, 5 term, (newly Democratic) Senator Arlen Specter and 58 year old, 2 term Congressman, Joe Sestak. In a race that could have been meaningless, the contest now looks like part of a pattern sweeping across the country.

The voters are sick and tired of their elected representatives and they aren’t going to take it any more!

The latest polls indicate that Sestak has emerged with a small but significant lead. The race is not over but if momentum continues, Arlen Specter will be defeated. Why has this possibility arisen?

In the Specter-Sestak contest, all of the Democratic Party bosses right up to President Obama have endorsed Specter. On top of that Sestak was relatively unknown and only modestly financed State-wide. How could Specter lose his lead?

Specter lost his momentum the old fashioned way. He refused to debate Sestak (except for one time) and he chose to sling mud (or tried to) from day one. Worse still, Specter chose to impugn Sestak’s military record and that struck both average voters and veterans the wrong way. Voters opened their eyes and what they say was an old time politicians doing things the old way. In the eyes of voters, the old way has not worked.

There is still a week to go and the contest is not yet decided. With huge Democratic organizations in Philadelphia and Pittsburg who might be able to “turn out the vote”, Sestak will have to wait until May 18 to find out.

For Specter, if he loses, it will be because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and chose to shoot himself in the foot with the wrong tactics.

Two Negatives Make a Right?

May 5, 2010

Why do so many politicians resort to negative campaigning? Experts tell us that’s simple. Negative advertising works. Oh, so now I understand.

But what if the claims made in the negative ads are false or totally irrelevant to the election? Experts again say that does not matter. It is simply important to implant a negative image into the voter, who they claim will forget anyway in time. The goal is getting elected silly.

But what if the negative campaigner is an incumbent who is a member of Congress that enjoys a low approval rating? Experts counter that all politics are local and voters will think only about themselves. Voters will sense which candidate will do best for that voter and demeaning the opponent is a necessary tactic. Why so?

Experts may try to explain that they seek a “share of mind” with the voter as justification. I believe, however, the real answer lies elsewhere. Most politicians and certainly the “suites” behind them hold a very low opinion of the average voter. They see the voter as a necessary nuisance. Tell them what ever but don’t scare the special interests who actually fund most of the campaign expense.

Just imagine some politician taking a principled stand. Rather than demeaning his opponent, clearly stating his principles and how they would play out if elected. In todays world that would elicit all sorts of special interests taking a shot at the candidate and confusing the voter. So, politicians conclude it is better to talk vanilla and damn the other person. Sort of makes sense.

And, look at what we have as a Congress. The public views all politicians as fully compromised and the captives of special interests. How can this change?

It can begin by electing the few brave souls that run on principles and reject negative advertising. This will require voters to be satisfied with a candidate that favors most but not necessarily all of their views. This will usher in a new generation of politicians who will have the chance to turn their backs on special interests simply for campaign funding.

So what about two candidate, both of whom choose to go negative, will they produce one decent public servant. Voters, it is your choice, but my view is they will not.

The Snake’s Spots

April 30, 2010

The American public has an amazingly low opinion of Congress. Many reasons are giving ranging from they get nothing done to they do too much. What is most worrisome, however, is the low regard for Congressional members’ personal integrity. The public views that all these members are for sale and their words cannot be trusted. Time for a change?

On May 18, Pennsylvania voters will get a chance to choose between 5 term, 80 year old Arlen Specter and two term Representative, 57 year old Joe Sestak. Specter has had a storied career, mostly as a Republican, and Sestak has had a distinguished Naval career (graduated second in his class at the Naval Academy) rising to the rank of a 3 star Admiral. Both face the possibility of running in the general election against a conservative, friend of big business republican who polls say may beat either of them.

What a time to campaign over issues that will impact Pennsylvanians as means of separating ones candidacy from the intrenched and disliked politicians. No brainer, right?

Unfortunately no. Specter has used two separate TV spots to go negative. The first impugned Sestak’s military career and the second deals with the relatively low pay of Sestak’s campaign staff. What has these claims have to do with (1) how effective Specter might be, if elected, in the next 6 years? (2) How would these claims inform about how Sestak might be, if elected, during the next 6 years?

Specter’s intent is clear. Focus the light away from him and the limited potential he can be effective in the next 6 years.

Voters do not like negative adds, especially when they are not related to any legislative issue. I wonder whether voters will recognize the evil ways of Karl Rove and Lee Atwater behind this style of negative campaigning?

Specter versus Sestak

April 22, 2010

This week Arlen Specter broadened his campaign attack upon Joe Sestak. Senator Specter, who turned 80 on Februrary 12, 2010, shifted his campaign to a “take no prisoners” style. In a TV spot, Specter demeaned the 31 year, 3 star admiral career of Sestak. Why would he go so negative, so early?

One reason may be that Specter, a five term Republican Senator from Pennsylvania, picked up too many bad habits from the likes of Karl Rove and Lee Atwater. Another reason might be that Specter has never shaken off his “attack” style that made his a successful DA, oh so many years ago. Still possibly Specter’s camp is worried about Congressman Sestak’s appeal to independent thinking voters and have become worried.

Five terms or 80 years old seems like a long enough stay. It seems long enough to have made your mark and maybe not so long as to have gotten terribly out of touch with voters. In short, 5 terms or 80 years is a good time to say enough is enough.

Senator Specter has chosen, however, to seek another term. Public opinion polls describe voters as disillusioned with Congress. Negative advertising does the public no service in helping them decide which candidate is more equipped to deal with the challenges facing America. Negative ads are designed, in fact, to take the voters’ eye off the real issues, and distract their attention on misinformation.

Will this early use of mean spirited advertising backfire?

No Negative Attacks On My Shift

August 13, 2008

Running a Presidential campaign must be a nightmare.  A candidate must hire a lot of people who in return for their cleverness and work you must later grant them some political spoils.  If that does not have a taint to it, I do not know what does.  Also, many times these “consultants” have conflicting interests with each other, and as a result there are arguments and disaggreements withing the crowd of advisors and consultants.  What a time and opportunity for someone to show he (or she) is a leader and commander-in-chief.

As we yawn through the summer months leading up to the conventions and actual kick off (the last 60 days of this marathon), there is time to observe which candidate’s campaign has shown leadership.  Up to this point, the vote has gone to Barack Obama and the “yellow card” has gone to John McCain.

Understandably McCain is starting from a huge hole, after all he is the Republican candidate and Presidents George W Bush and Dick Cheney are a real burden to follow.  So distinguishing oneself is far more difficult for McCain than for Obama.

McCain has followed a crooked path

  • he has endorsed the Bush tax cuts and wants them permanent (even though the country is going bankrupt)
  • he has claimed that the Iraq invasion and occupation was in America’s best interest and should continue indefinitely (even though the Iraqi Government has said “enough is enough”.
  • he has linked more drilling off shore and especially in the artic coupled with more nuclear reactors as the route to lowering gasoline prices (even though under the best of conditions his recommendations will require 10 years to have any results and lower prices in unlikely in any case, and common sense clearly shows that conservation and renewable energy sources are needed for the long term).
  • he has said he would pick any future supreme court justices in the model of Justices Roberts and Alito (even though these are divisive backward thinking Justices).
  • he has denied he will be “Bush III” (even though he has endorsed much of what Bush has done).

With these as his beliefs (at least his stated ones), what can you campaign on?  Therefore, it has been preferred by the McCain campaign to question Obama’s patriotism, his fitness for service, and his race.  In interviews, of course, McCain strenuously denies anything negative and asserts the fairness of these questions.  To the listener, he almost sounds like he believes what he is saying and truly does not support a negative campaign.  But is that all there is?

From my perspective, I accept that McCain does not seek a negative campaign and he will stay away from that as long as he can.  With such friends and spokesmen such as Joe Lieberman, and a campaign staff loaded with former lobbyists, do not be surprised to see a steady flow of ethically lacking and gutter filled political type of ads and spoken claims.  When called to task, McCain will deny their negativity and then turn his dogs lose on some new topic.

While that may be the world of politics, the voter is the loser because this tit for tat drowns out much needed discussion on real issues.  McCain, however, (maybe by necessity) is following a risky path.  Obama has shown time after time that he does not need to climb into the gutter to reply to this type of campaign claim.  It is good to know that McCain says there will be “no negative attacks on my shift”.  Maybe we shall see a commander-in-chief take charge and bring his campaign out of the gutter.

Sticks and Stones

July 27, 2008

In 2000 and again in 2004, the Republican standard bearer used a liberal dose of negative charges against his Democratic rival.  The architect was Karl Rove, but the hands of George W Bush were dirtied just the same.  Now in 2008, there are signs that John McCain may resort to the same methods in his race against Barack Obama.  Will the outcome be the same?

On Saturday, McCain’s campaign issued a charge that Obama had “short changed” the GI’s when he canceled a visit to an Army hospital in Germany.  McCain’s turd throwers said Obama preferred instead to spend his time in front of crowds of Germans.  While the facts are close to correct in that (1) Obama did cancel his planned visit to the hospital, and (2) Obama did draw 200,000 Germans to his speech, there is as always more  to the story.  The Army had raised concerns about getting itself involved in politics by having someone running for office visit.  At this point, Obama was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.

There will be many more of these type of negative charges.  Each one requires a swift explanation before Obama can move on.  Even worse, no one is served well by this type of charge in any case.  There are important issues, for example, the lagging US economy, the struggling banking and investment industry, the broken US monetary and fiscal policies, the country’s addiction to imported oil, the ugly prospects of global warming, and the future of healthcare and social security.  Why do the Republicans not speak to these issues?

There is no national consensus on any of these issues.  A rich debate over the next 100 days would help educate the public on these subjects and possibly develop some agreement on how to attack them.  During the past 8 years, the Bush Administration’s answer for these concerns was more like “what me worry?” or half baked ideas like private social security accounts when if they were created the rest of the social security fund would collapse even quicker than now forecasted, and drilling for more oil instead of breaking the addiction by developing alternatives sources and finding ways to consume less energy.

If John McCain will not begin this important discussion then Barack Obama should.  Obama will not only look like a President, he will be acting like one.  McCain should remember “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me”.