This election cycle is seeing an extraordinary thing: the failure of the last-minute negative smear campaign. It's always a risky move (Gray Davis tried it just before he went down here in California and it just made him look meaner) but as a rule, it's served Republican presidential candidates for the last ten years or so. If there wasn't a last minute smear campaign in 2000 questioning Gore's honesty, we'd probably have a president Gore right now. If he hadn't worked out, and they hadn't questioned John Kerry's fitness in combat, we'd have president Kerry.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
So however you feel about it morally, you have to admit it's been an effective tool. But this year it's backfiring big. Michele Bachmann was ahead in the polls until she implied that Democrats were anti-American - suddenly she's three points behind and the RNC has pulled her funding. McCain brings up Bill Ayers at the final debate and the squiggly insta-poll lines among undecideds drop like a stone.
The situation is similar to being a Zeppelin captain where suddenly, without warning, the laws of physics change and hydrogen is heavier than air. At first you don't believe it - why would you? - and you immediately tell the crew to pump more hydrogen into the balloon. It's only when you see the Earth rushing towards you that you start to consider the unthinkable. We're in the last 9 days before the election, and some Republicans finally realize that they need to switch to helium.
God help 'em, I don't think there is enough helium on board to keep the ship aloft this year. Even before the financial meltdown the zeppelin was lookin' a little wobbly. Now it looks like the best hope of survival is jumping close enough to the ground to avoid injury but far enough that you're out of the way when it bursts into flames. Oh the humanity!