Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Good Cop Bad Cop

The New York Times notes that the Obama campaign is hitting back with some sharp ads against McCain in local markets while still staying positive on the national level.

The negative spots reflect the sharper tone Mr. Obama has struck in recent days on the stump as he heads into his party’s nominating convention in Denver next week, and seem to address the anxiety among some Democrats that Mr. Obama has not answered a volley of attacks by Mr. McCain with enough force.

“If you can go quietly negative, that’s what he’s done; I think the perception is that he’s still running the positive campaign,” said Evan Tracey, president of the Campaign Media Analysis Group of TNS Media Intelligence, which monitors political advertising. “It’s a pretty smart, high-low, good cop/bad cop strategy.”

In Philadelphia; East Lansing, Mich.; Green Bay, Wis.; and at least five other major cities, Mr. Obama is heavily showing an advertisement contrasting a statement by Mr. McCain that “we have had a pretty good, prosperous time with low unemployment,” with appearances by people making statements like, “The prices of gas are up; the prices of milk are up.”

The conventional wisdom is that Obama wasn’t expecting such an onslaught from the McCain campaign after his trip to Iraq and the speech in Berlin. In reality, I’m betting they did. It’s not like they didn’t know that the Republicans would throw everything at them; they just didn’t know the specifics, and they had to come up with the specifics to respond to the attacks. In that respect, they had to be reactive, but in the rest of it — the plan from now to November, it’s going to be pro-active.

I also think that the good cop/bad cop method is pretty crafty; on the national level the Obama ads can stay warm and fuzzy while going on the attack on the local level where people will be hearing about how the last eight years of the Bush economic disaster will go on unabated and unchanged under John McCain. It’s the national ads that will get the notice by the punditocracy, but the local ones that will reach the voters.

It’s also funny to note that the McCain campaign is beginning to run ads saying that “We’re worse off than we were four years ago.” Gee, ya think? You voted for all of it, Sen. McCain, and you can’t run away from your 100%-with-Bush voting record over the last four years.