McCain, Obama Campaigns Now Moving Into Full Attack Mode
“Of course, you know, this means WAR!”
That’s essentially the response of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s campaign to several news stories in which GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain’s campaign virtually telegraphed its intention to go intensely negative and try to turn Obama’s past associations into an issue. Then, over the weekend, GOP Vice Presidential candidate Gov. Sarah Palin started doing exactly that.
So now the Obama campaign says it will take off its gloves, too:
Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) on Monday is launching a multimedia campaign to draw attention to the involvement of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the “Keating Five” savings-and-loan scandal of 1989-91, which blemished McCain’s public image and set him on his course as a self-styled reformer.
Pushing back against what it calls McCain’s “guilt-by-association” tactics, the Obama campaign overnight began e-mailing millions of supporters a link to a website, KeatingEconomics.com, which will have a 13-minute documentary on the scandal beginning at noon Eastern time on Monday. The e-mails urge recipients to pass the link on to friends.
The Obama campaign, including its surrogates appearing on radio and television, will argue that the deregulatory fervor that caused massive, cascading savings-and-loan collapses in the late ‘80s was pursued by McCain throughout his career, and helped cause the current credit crisis.
Obama-Biden communications director Dan Pfeiffer said: “While John McCain may want to turn the page on his erratic response to the current economic crisis, we think voters will find his involvement in a similar crisis to be particularly interesting. His involvement with Keating is a window into McCain’s economic past, present, and future.”
McCain’s campaign has already taken its gloves off, so now it’s taking the skin of its fingers off with a brand, new ad flatly calling Obama “dishonorable” — in other words, shifting into what seems to be name calling mode:
The sudden spate of personal attacks continued Monday, with McCain releasing an ad called “Dangerous”: “Who is Barack Obama? He says our troops in Afghanistan are ‘just air-raiding villages and killing civilians.’ How dishonorable. Congressional liberals voted repeatedly to cut off funding to our active troops. Increasing the risk on their lives. How dangerous. Obama and Congressional liberals. Too risky for America.”
Meanwhile, Palin reportedly is pushing for the campaign to start hammering Obama on the issue of his former pastor Rev. Wright.
All of this comes at time when the economic issue continues to rage — as European and world markets take a big hit.
Can McCain turn his campaign around by changing the subject during the last month to whether Obama is a dangerous person to have in the White House for a variety of reason (the AP and some others say the McCain campaign is indirectly raising the race issue, but it denies it)? Or will voters remain focused on the pocketbooks, their suddenly-changed retirement fund statements plus the spate of bad news on the domestic and world economic fronts?
Former Hillary Clinton bigwig Howard Wolfson argues the election is already over for McCain. But some other analysts dispute that.
Meanwhile, McCain’s move to veer the issue away from substantive issues into whether Obama is a risky person to have in the White House due to his associations, ideas and experience level compared to McCain is raising concerns now among some conservatives. The Christian Science Monitor:
Who would disagree that if John McCain was up by 10 points, the same tactics wouldn’t be used by Team Obama? Remember it was only a month ago when McCain was leading in the polls and the Obama campaign announced it would be playing hardball — and for awhile was running more negative ads than McCain.
But times are different now, say some conservatives. They look back at 1992 when the economy took center stage and see some deja vu.
New York Times columnist David Brooks, also appearing on Face the Nation Sunday, doesn’t believe a negative campaign can be successful.
“They don’t understand how the same political tactics that they’ve used before, going after liberal, liberal, liberal, that’s not going to work now because something has overshadowed it,” Brooks explained. “And that overshadowing, that economic anxiety is just going to dominate the next five weeks. There’s no way around that. And if they’re not touching that, then they’re not touching the core issue. And John McCain has not done it. And he hasn’t done it over the weekend, where they’ve been attacking Obama for being too liberal or not loving America enough.”
GOP strategist Mike Murphy, appearing on Meet the Press Sunday, shares Brooks’ point of view – to a point. He agrees that it is all about the economy and that the character game isn’t going to work. But he, unlike Brooks, thinks mentioning the L word and the potential for the L party to dominate the executive and legislative branches of government might equalize the poll numbers.
“Bring up the issue of the concept of a runaway liberal one-party train here in Washington,” Murphy told host Tom Brokaw. “You know, just no checks and balances at all. McCain, a partisan, can-do pragmatist vs. the idea that everything in this town being run by the Democrats with no restraint, no balance, no control, and that’ll affect the economy in a bad way. I think that’s a better prosecution for the McCain campaign than these character attacks…”
What is certain (1) the McCain-Obama debate this week could be a fiery one since, if McCain’s campaign is raising these issues on the stump, it stands to reason McCain will raise the issues in the debate and Obama (unless he is guilty of political negligence) will be prepared to answer in kind AND (2) the American electorate is about to see one of the most fierce final months of a Presidential campaign which will likely end in the next President entering office facing a highly-polarized electorate AND (3) this will be the real test of whether bread-and-butter and substance issues can trump personal negative politics.
UPDATE: MSNBC’s First Read:
The question we’ve got: Whom will the voters punish for the negativity? The Obama camp is gambling that McCain will get blamed for starting this fight. We’ll see. Obama’s brand could be just as tarnished if he’s seen as being too negative, and we’ve seen what the negative campaign has done to McCain’s image lately.