Skip to content

Going Even More Negative

Joe Klein in Time Magazine argues that negative campaign ads will be much more common during this presidential election, based on what we are already seeing in the Iowa primary:

Negative ads have been more effective and brutal this time because no one has to get up there at the end and say, “I’m Mitt Romney and I approved this message.”

That line came in for a fair amount of mockery when the federal government began to require it a few cycles ago. But it worked. It became harder to for a candidate to have an ad accusing an opponent of being a mother-raper if he or she had to appear at the end and say, “I approve this message.” In fact, in 2004, “I approve this message” just about killed Dick Gephardt in Iowa, as he set to work filleting Howard Dean. Iowans are nice. They don’t like candidates who aren’t.

This time, however, the vast majority of Iowans don’t know that friends of Mitt Romney have put several bajillion dollars worth of ads up eviscerating Newt Gingrich. And I don’t know who put up that anti-Paul ad last night. It’s a coarsening of a system that is already too coarse. And we can thank the Supreme Court for that. It certainly doesn’t bode well for the general election next fall.

So with Super PACs active for the first time in a presidential election, we can certainly expect not just to be inundated with negative ads, but ads with lots of dirty tricks too.

I worry that those people who think Obama is going to win this one easily are thinking in terms of 2008 politics, not 2012. Yes, the Republican candidates are currently a mess, but they have been against each other while Obama gets to be presidential and avoid a primary fight like he had in 2008. I can only imagine what will happen during the real election, because of all this anonymous money being thrown around, and I’m sure it will be far nastier than the 2008 election.



  1. Don wrote:

    I couldn’t agree more. Swift boating was pretty bad. A small group of folks supplied with outside, semi-laundered money create a largely false ad campaign and get away with it. Now, the money will be totally anonymous, there will be lots of groups getting it, the ads will, I’m afraid, bear little resemblance to the truth, and it will be very ugly.

    Perhaps a trip out of the country starting in June or July, returning the day before the election. Or maybe I’ll just continue to watch only a bit of tv, staying completely away from the major networks. This could be the time to finally get a subscription to HBO to escape into an ad-free entertainment world.

    Tuesday, January 3, 2012 at 11:53 am | Permalink
  2. PatriotSGT wrote:

    Might I recommend home renovation project or golf as an alternative to that Don. It’s beneficial either as improvement to ones surroundings or as a stress reliever and health enhancer. 🙂

    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 7:48 am | Permalink
  3. Don wrote:

    PSgt. Words obviously from a wise person. Doubt I’ll take up golf, though. I’m rehabbing from shoulder surgery right now and will hopefully be ready to star as the next walk-on 20 game winner for the Giants. ‘>D Home renovation projects? Why, there are several in the queue as we speak.

    In a similar vein, it occurred to me this morning after reading a bit about the Iowa caucuses that the Republicans in that contest were the first to feel the power of anonymous, outside spending. Most of the candidates believe the Citizens United case was decided correctly. Wonder how Newtie feels about it now with Romney’s friends blasts?

    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Permalink
  4. Iron Filing wrote:

    Don, I heard Newt say that the Citizen’s United Ruling is not the problem. He says limiting contributions to the candidates is the problem. He claims that if contributions were unlimited then the anonymous donations would go to candidates who could not hide behind a PAC when campaigning negatively.

    I don’t buy it. Newt just doesn’t want to admit he was wrong about Citizens United. It’s funny how these politicians rarely admit mistakes, prefering hypocrisy, flip-flops and mendacity over a simple mea culpa.

    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Permalink
  5. Anonymous wrote:

    Don and IF you guys are right on. It’s all fun and games until someone else uses it on you. Alls fair in love and politics.

    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Permalink
  6. BTN wrote:

    I’ll splt the difference with Newt: unlmited funding of candidates is a horrible, undemocratic idea, but unlimited, anonymous funding of SuperPacs is still mch worse.

    Friday, January 6, 2012 at 12:57 am | Permalink