Why McCain's Smears Might Backfire

Nate Silver points out that by unleashing the heavy negative attacks, McCain risks further damage to his already sinking favoribility ratings.

What’s interesting is that, with the exception of the past couple of weeks, McCain’s and Obama’s ratings have been fairly strongly correlated, tending to rise and fall together. This is not to say that negative campaigning doesn’t work — it sometimes does — but it works at diminished efficiency, because you may be giving back 50 cents on the dollar by harming your own approval scores.

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0 Responses to Why McCain's Smears Might Backfire

  1. Patrick says:

    I hope, and believe, or else I’ll have to find another country to live out my golden years, that McCain’s sleazy, Hillary Clinton rerun attacks on Obama will ultimately fail. Even the MSM are starting to notice the “strategy” he has adopted, by sending Palin out to do the dirty work. Of course, that’s standard practice for VP candidates, but it can be done with a bit more subtlety than she has managed. The big guys in the media are even beginning to notice the racism implicit in her remarks. Tonight’s ABC evening news had Tapper and others pointing out that this was a new strategy by McCain, and giving it little chance of success. By almost every measure, except by those who are consuming the “conservative” Kool-aid by the gallon, McCain is in the death throes of his campaign, and not much he can say or do will salvage what is ultimately a dispiriting, content-free campaign. I have, by the way, read at least two columns by knowledgeable observers, about McCain’s body language and what it says about a man who is almost out of control during debates or when even discussing his opponent. He’s scary.

  2. Patrick says:

    By the way, one of my favorite low-controversy web sites, Lifehacker, (http://lifehacker.com/) has an entry today about dealing with racist comments and jokes at work. Their advice is at http://lifehacker.com/5059124/how-to-deal-with-a-racist-joke-at-work.

    Is it possible that the need for this advice has been prompted by the political contest at hand?

  3. commonsguy says:

    Obama’s response is to hit back with the Keating 5:


    It will be interesting to see where the documentary falls along the “smear”-“truth” continuum.

    I’m a bit surprised at their response, as I would have expected the Obama campaign to go *less* negative, considering the current polling data. Just defend any scurrilous charges and focus on the issues, as his campaign largely has done to date.

  4. len bullard says:

    Since McCain and John Glenn were exonerated, and a Democrat tried to remove him from the list only to be confronted that the list would then only contain Democrats, yes, let’s see how well this smear works out.

  5. Dan says:

    Yes, if by “exonerated” you mean “censured.”

    The Senate Ethics Committee said that he was guilty only of “poor judgment” (who could hold a politician to blame for that?) in failing to report paid trips to Keating’s Bahama retreat as required by law. It was his wife and father-in-law, not he, who invested $359,000 in a Keating strip mall. As we all recall from the Clinton and Carter years, we’re not allowed to hold any politician over the fire for anything a spouse or family member might have done.

    And McCain gave all of the $112,000 in campaign funds he received from Keating to the US Treasury. As we know, no Democrat has ever been castigated by Republicans over a campaign donation, once the donation has been returned or given away.

    Furthermore, there has not been even the hint of a suggestion in these troubled times that Democrats are equally (or entirely) to blame for the current credit meltdown. Republicans do not shift blame for their messes onto the innocent.

    It’s easy to say McCain was exonerated; just as easy as saying that Clinton was found not guilty over the Lewinsky thing.

    They were both innocent to the same degree.

  6. dragonmage06 says:

    I really hope that the American people are smart enough to see through these negative attacks and realize what they’re trying to do. However, there are a lot of studies showing that people respond more to negative attack ads than positive ads.

    Maybe, though, McCain has really overdone the negativity. it seems that that’s his entire campaign.

  7. Dan says:

    I don’t think Obama should have responded with more negative attacks. He should have simply said, “Now my opponent is reduced to repeating swiftboat-style lies about me.”

  8. len bullard says:

    I have friends in both of those campaigns (deep in them). It’s going to be blood for the next thirty days. There is no getting around it now. Negative campaigning in the last month is traditional and shown to work. The deal is, afterwards these same people we are trashing will be shaking hands and getting on with their careers. We’ll be the smashed pumpkins.

    We can wallow in it or ignore it as the last gasps of a very long odious affair. For every attack on McCain and Palin, I have a list for Obama and Biden. I’m sure it is the same on the other side.

    Bitter butter.

    If we can do less snark and more work on the way to the changes we want to see, less get even and more find what we can agree on, we’ll be using our time here better.

    Otherwise, this is a waste of electrons.

  9. CJ says:

    John McCain was already in the U.S. Congress when he became embroiled in the Keating mess. Whereas wasn’t Obama still, as the McCain Camp is quick to point out at other times, merely a Community organiser?

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