Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Romney Decision on Attack Ads

Mitt Romney's decision to rebuke supporters who wanted to produce a series of ads on the extremist statements of the President's pastor was a good one.   Many of the hard core opponents of Obama thought he was doing a McCain but I think his decision was both sound and good politics.

Here are some reasons why -

1) Jeremiah Wright is old news - Indeed, Pastor Wright is an offensive racist.  His sermons reek of tired cliches of the left.  It is impossible to believe that Obama did not get at least some of the extreme rhetoric in a church he claims to have attended for more than 20 years (Wright married the Obamas and baptized their children.)   But all of this was known in the 2008 campaign.   It is my judgment that Romney would not increase his share of voters - people who know about Wright and think negatively about his rants - are not likely to vote more for Romney because of a commercial which points out Wright's absurd notions.  Those who think Wright is a victim are unlikely to be convinced to change their opinion of the President merely because charges are repeated.  Attacking Wright does not get you any new voters but not attacking him may get you some.

2) Romney can claim the high ground - One of the more telling remarks in Romney's press conference on this issue was that he would like to stick to the issues in this campaign.  The problem(s) with this Administration are based on economics not theology.  By rebuking the politicos here, Romney can continue to press the attack on Obama's manifest failures in restoring economic growth.

McCain's stance here is not dispositive.  His campaign was a hodge podge of organization.  Romney's team seems well disciplined.   They can make the point - winning the office does not require such lot shots - that may turn the tactic on Obama.

3) If Romney Wins - this will put him in better stead to lead - One of the major failings of the Obama Administration has been his complete inability to work with the other side.  While critics have argued that he did not even try (and there is truth to that) a case can be made that his inability to develop less partisan solutions was caused by the type of campaign he ran.  But Romney can claim, if he wins, I did not attack personally but on policies and we can have a discussion about alternatives.   That could change the conversation in Washington.

4) Obama is poised to run an old style campaign - The feeble attempts by Joe Biden to attack Romney on his wealth (Biden went to Archmere Academy another elite prep school) this week were silly and mostly laughed at.  Their attempt to tie Romney to Bain's M&A activity was responded to quickly and decisively.  Contrast the whiney ad produced for the president (GST Steel - which was taken over by Bain and eventually failed  - but that is a reality of the business world some attempts are unsuccessful) versus the ad produced by the Romney team that hit the airwaves almost immediately on Steel Dynamics.   In an interview Romney went on to make the point that  indeed some of the efforts by Bain were unsuccessful but the sum total of those efforts is not as large as the clumsy restructuring of the auto industry done by the Administration.  Romney seems poised to go toe to toe with the Obama attack dogs.

The Obama ad - which is more than 6 minutes distorts the reality of the issue.   GS Steel was in deep trouble they brought Bain in to turn the aging plant around - according to Reuters - "The old mill, renamed GS Technologies, needed expensive updating, and demand for its products was susceptible to cycles in the mining industry and commodities markets."   The ad could get labor unions fired up but between its length and the distorted picture it offers - I suspect it did not do much for the President's re-election campaign.

The Steel Dynamics Ad is shorter and better focused.  

Polling on the type of attack ads done by Obama have mixed results.  First, most political advisors think they are effective.  But when voters are polled - most think the type of ads are over the top.   Conventional wisdom here by the consultants may be wrong.

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