Mud in the Cookie Jar

August 5, 2008

by Alicia Long
The Media Beat

It’s called mudslinging, and both candidates promised to keep it clean.

John McCain has said that he doesn’t want to use the negative campaign tactics that George W. Bush used in 2000 and 2004, and Obama has said in the past that he too does not wish to resort to the “same old politics.”

And this jargon is palatable to voters. When surveyed, voters will say that they do not like it when politicians resort to negative campaigning. So why do candidates continue to “go negative?”

The problem is is that it works. According to the director of the Campaign Connection of Seattle, “the informational benefits of negative political ads possess the capacity to promote political participation, particularly among those otherwise least well equipped for political learning.”

It’s basically the army of “undecided” voters… that sought-after group of Americans who are fought over each election, are the ones who are meant to be swayed by negative ads.

Even though the candidates have condemned this kind of negative campaigning, both candidates have been caught with their muddy hands in the cookie jar. Over the last couple of weeks, both McCain and Obama have come out swinging.

McCain’s surprising attack ad began playing last week in swing states across the country, in which he mocked Obama’s popularity and compared him to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears:

Some in the GOP are becoming concerned with McCain’s decision to “go negative” so early in the campaign season. With McCain’s claims of high gas prices bing Obama’s fault, that Obama would “rather lose a war to win a political campaign,” and calling him “Dr. No” on energy policy, many in the GOP are worried. McCain may be in danger of turning off independent voters by taking the first real jab below the belt, instead of letting other groups and 527s do that for him.

Of course, once a negative political punch in thrown, the other candidate may feel the need to punch back.

Until now, Obama has remained on a thin line when it comes to negative attacks, but his newest ad perhaps pushes him over the edge:

And it starts. Both candidates have officially jumped in the pool, now they both have to keep swimming. My guess is that this pattern will continue, if not escalate, until November. So much for playing nice.