Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Attacks Not Working

Negative attacks — which is redundant, since there’s really no such thing as any other kind — aren’t working for the McCain-Palin campaign, according to a poll from the New York Times and CBS.

After several weeks in which the McCain campaign unleashed a series of strong political attacks on Mr. Obama, trying to tie him to a former 1960s radical, among other things, the poll found that more voters see Mr. McCain as waging a negative campaign than Mr. Obama. Six in 10 voters surveyed said that Mr. McCain had spent more time attacking Mr. Obama than explaining what he would do as president; by about the same number, voters said Mr. Obama was spending more of his time explaining than attacking.

Over all, the poll found that if the election were held today, 53 percent of those determined to be probable voters said they would vote for Mr. Obama and 39 percent said they would vote for Mr. McCain.

A lot of the people who get paid a lot of money to interpret these things say this outcome — a 14-point lead for Sen. Obama — is an outlier; the numbers are probably a lot closer (and I still hold to my prediction that Mr. Obama will not break the 50% mark). But the point about the negative ads and how it’s driving the McCain-Palin campaign south puts them in tough spot; they really don’t have anything else to run on. Sen. McCain’s flailing attempts to come up with policies that address the issues of the economy have been so scatter-shot that not even the people who are supposedly coming up with these brain waves can’t even decide when to come out with them, and when they do, they are either warmed-over old ideas that don’t address the current problem or their merely different takes on plans that have been proposed by other people and badge-engineered to make it look like it’s something new. (It reminds me of the Lincoln Versailles, Ford’s attempt at a small luxury car. It was a Granada with bells and whistles. And it bombed.)

The latest attempt by the McCain-Palin campaign has been to use the false equivalency argument; the Obama campaign has been just as nasty. First, that sounds like whining from the backseat of the station wagon filled with cranky kids on a long trip — “He touched me!” “You started it!” “Mommmmm!” And second, equating the occasional “boo!” at the mention of Mr. McCain’s name at an Obama speech (which Mr. Obama immediately put the kibosh on), isn’t on the same level as the “Kill him!” and “Terrorist!” shouts at a McCain-Palin rally. To the wingers, Rep. John Lewis’s harking back to George Wallace is the same thing, and it simply isn’t. A historical reference doesn’t merit the attention of the United States Secret Service. And the over-reaction by Mr. McCain and his team tells us that somebody touched a nerve; you can tell because one of the responses to the Lewis remark was to invoke the last refuge: Mr. McCain’s P.O.W. status. Now you know they’re hitting the bottom of the well; they’ll try anything to not talk about the economy.