Backfire

It’s an interesting dichotomy in politics; no one ever says they like negative campaigning, but at the same time negative campaigning works.  Right?

Last evening’s CBS/NYT poll set the political sphere all abuzz thanks in no small part to the astonishing fourteen point lead that it gave to Obama nationally.  But another aspect to the poll that deserves notice is the fact that it is clearly showing that John McCain’s attacks on Barack Obama are backfiring.

Of course, we knew they weren’t working, not when the scale of the attacks failed to change the momentum of the presidential race in the slightest, but the negative campaigning, the attempt to inject Ayers into the race among other negative slanders, is having a net negative impact on John McCain, driving down his favorables.

The NYT article linked above indicates the polls are showing what I’ve been saying for a while now; we are in a time of greatly perceived crisis, and people are far more concerned with how each candidate will take us out of this mess, not that they can do effective oppo research.  Every time McCain attacks Obama on an irrelevant subject, he is sending a big message to the American people that he really doesn’t care enough about their concerns to dedicate his full energies to them.

But I think there’s another possible danger coming in the weeks ahead for McCain should he choose to maintain a policy of negative campaigning.  When we look at the data over at pollster (I would embed the graph but I’ve read at other places it really tends to bog down the load time of the page) a curious development emerges.  All the polls disagree to some degree which is expected, but nearly all of them put Obama over the fifty percent mark.  In fact, Pollster’s estimated position of putting Obama at 52% is actually the conservative low ball estimate.

What this means is that a majority of Americans are planning on voting for Obama, and are beginning to see him as the next President of the United States.  That’s a powerful mentality for the national consciousness to adopt, and I think it makes launching a negative campaign even more dangerous as you are being seen not only taking time away from focusing on the nation’s problems to smear an opponent, but also attacking the person who is most likely to actually lead the nation.

Okay, I’ll grant that this is a flimsy point, but it touches on the kind of sentiment I believe conservative writer David Frum was alluding to a few days ago.  Barack Obama has a better than 95% chance of being our next president, and as we get into the final stages of this presidential election, McCain’s negative campaigning may be doing less to win the election, and more to divide the country when unity is of the utmost importance.

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