While voters constantly complain about negative ads, campaigns use them because they work. A new LA Times national poll shows that a month of ads attacking Obama as a lightweight unready to lead have erased his lead nationally. The two are in a statistical tie. Obama's advantage in the electoral college has also vanished. If you compare the 2008 electoral college graph with the 2004 one, the parallels are striking. Kerry led throughout the summer until the Swift Boat ad kicked in, and it was downhill from there. Kerry never recovered.It will be interesting to see if Obama has studied the 2004 campaign and goes negative himself. He has three possible themes. First, he can paint McCain as out of touch with how many Americans are struggling economically. If he wants to get personal (as McCain has), he can depict McCain as the man with $520 Italian shoes, half a dozen houses, a wife worth $100 million and the view that someone making $4 million a year is not rich. There is some evidence that he will continue to run a positive national campaign but start hitting McCain on the economy in specific media markets. For example, in Ohio he's hitting McCain because Rick Davis (McCain's campaign manager) helped broker a deal to move 8000 jobs from Ohio to Kentucky. A second theme is that McCain is an honorable man but at 71 is losing his marbles (can't tell a Sunni from a Shi'ite, thinks Czechoslovakia is still a country, etc.). A third plausible theme is that McCain used to be a maverick but in his pandering to the base has now repudiated everything he used to stand for (was against, now for Bush tax cuts; was for, now against his own immigration bill; was against, now for torture, etc.). In at least one way, Republicans are much smarter than Democrats: they fully realize that the way to win is to attack your opponent relentlessly, preferable on a single topic. This year's topic is Obama's lack of experience.
Obama's vice-presidential selection is unlikely to enthuse the Democratic grassroots base. He may get a small convention bounce that will almost surely be mitigated by McCain's efforts to thwart it. announcing his own veep pick the day after Obama's coronation before 75,000 in Denver's football stadium. The still-presumptive nominee will lead a not-so-unified party out of the convention, with the intractable, bitter PUMAs and other disaffected but less neurotic Clinton supporters diminishing his campaign's excitement.
He now must go on the attack against McCain -- and the sooner the better, or risk the same fate as John Kerry; losing an election that should be easily won, failing to respond quickly and forcefully in the face of reprehensible and scurrilous personal attacks.
This is the sorry state of presidential politics in America. If Obama refuses to get into a street fight with McCain and the second-generation Roves, he will lose the presidency. And he had better not wait much longer to start fighting.
In more encouraging developments, Toby Keith says he likes Obama, and outs himself as a Democrat:
"So as far as leadership and patriotism goes, I think it's really important that those things have to take place. And I think he's the best Democratic candidate we've had since Bill Clinton. And that's coming from a Democrat."
Something for all the rednecks to ponder as they drive around in their F-350's, with "Beer for my Horses" playing in the CD.