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.