Obama, Romney launch nasty ads early
President Obama has one set to air in battleground states that accuses presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney of encouraging companies to ship jobs overseas. It ends with the cheeky line: "It's just what you would expect from a guy who had a Swiss bank account."
This comes on the heels of one that questioned whether Romney would have been willing to go after Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan, the way Obama did a year ago. Hardly the most presidential move, using a foreign policy victory to launch a cheap shot.
Romney, for his part, aired a blatantly misleading ad last fall built around a clip of Obama saying, "If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose." Problem is, Obama was not referring to his own situation but was quoting a statement made by John McCain in 2008.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the portents of the nasty election that every observer is predicting. Not only are the attack ads coming early, they are being produced by the two campaigns rather than by surrogate groups, which will gin up even more scurrilous ads later.
So the public, which has been telling Washington that it wants solutions, not posturing and bickering, can expect more posturing and bickering.
Obama's willingness to go negative just four years after his "hope" campaign flows in part from the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which allowed unlimited amounts of money to flow into outside political organizations funding attack ads. Fearful of being outspent by pro-Romney "Super PACs," Obama's well-financed campaign is acting like its own Super PAC, trying to frame Romney's public image early.
As for Romney, he's coming off an unusually harsh Republican primary season, filled with strident rhetoric aimed at the party's most rabid anti-Obama elements. His Super PACs will continue the offensive even as the candidate tacks to the center.
Political consultants will tell you that campaigns run negative ads because the ads work. One oft-cited example is the "Swift Boat" attacks in 2004 that questioned the credibility of Democratic nominee John Kerry, a Vietnam War veteran. This year, barrages of negative ads helped Romney beat back primary challenges from Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.
With the two sides dug into their war room bunkers with massive war chests, it would be naive to think there won't be more of the same ― unless, of course, the tactic stops working. One can at least hope that will happen. The more brazen the lies and the more intense the barrage, the more likely that undecided voters will be turned off, not swung over.
This article was published and distributed by USA Today.