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Hullabaloo


Monday, May 31, 2004

 
It's Nightime In America

From Bush, Unprecedented Negativity

Scholars and political strategists say the ferocious Bush assault on Kerry this spring has been extraordinary, both for the volume of attacks and for the liberties the president and his campaign have taken with the facts. Though stretching the truth is hardly new in a political campaign, they say the volume of negative charges is unprecedented -- both in speeches and in advertising.

Three-quarters of the ads aired by Bush's campaign have been attacks on Kerry. Bush so far has aired 49,050 negative ads in the top 100 markets, or 75 percent of his advertising. Kerry has run 13,336 negative ads -- or 27 percent of his total. The figures were compiled by The Washington Post using data from the Campaign Media Analysis Group of the top 100 U.S. markets. Both campaigns said the figures are accurate.


Amazing, isn't it? And people wonder why Kerry hasn't been surging in the polls as Junior systematically destroys the country. And, it has such a nice salutary effect of making Democrats feel less than passionate about their candidate, too. If it weren't for such a strong and unyielding ABB feeling on our side, I have no doubt that these ads would have worked as effectively to reduce Dem turn-out as on the undecided voters they are supposedly trying to convince. As it is, I think they are succeeding only to the extent that they make it uncomfortable for the politically timid to publicly support Kerry -- e.g. take an unequivocal stand at the water cooler and the supermarket. That is an effect that is fading fast as disillusionment with Junior grows.

Incumbent presidents often prefer to run on their records in office, juxtaposing upbeat messages with negative shots at their opponents, as Bill Clinton did in 1996.

Scott Reed, who ran Robert J. Dole's presidential campaign that year, said the Bush campaign has little choice but to deliver a constant stream of such negative charges. "With low poll numbers and a volatile situation in Iraq, Bush has more hope of tarnishing Kerry's image than promoting his own."

"The Bush campaign is faced with the hard, true fact that they have to keep their boot on his neck and define him on their terms," Reed said. That might risk alienating some moderate voters or depressing turnout, "but they don't have a choice," he said.


(I love it when GOP operatives actively embrace totalitarian imagery. Smells like ... bad apples.)

At this point, the only way that Bush can win is by destroying John Kerry. Even if one of the much discussed "external events" take place, I doubt bush will gain from it. As a result he is forced to run the most negative campaign in modern memory. Unfortunately for the country, if there's one thing the Republicans have perfected, it's negative campaigns and character assassination. The Bush family specializes in it. They are the Borgias of our time.

I know that some believe political advertising has little effect on people, but the studies they cite are based upon respondent's own perceptions. The truth is that people rarely admit to being influenced by ads of any kind, yet their buying habits and perceptions of products prove that they are.

The thing that will change all of this is a critical mass of people using TiVO type technology. Then TV advertising is going to be in a world of hurt. TV ads (political ads especially because they are almost all so bad) work mostly on a subliminal level. People rarely pay active attention after they've seen it the first time. The key is for people to hear and see the key memes often enough for it to be absorbed subconsciously. One thing the Bush campaign has going for it is the money to relentlessly hammer their ads home. This gives them a much greater chance of having their message seep into the collective unconscious over time.

On the other hand, their image of Kerry as a of liberal, French flip-flopper only works well as contrasted with the Omnipotent Steely-Eyed Rocket Man, an image that I'm afraid is no longer operative. They are going to switch gears, I think, although I have no idea what form of destructive lies and images they are going to haul out this time.

It is only June. Bush poll numbers are still plummeting. It is going to get uglier and uglier. It's the only hope they have. And, don't underestimate them. They are very good at just that kind of politics. They're never happier than when personal destruction is job one.







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