Who is the Dirtier Campaigner: Obama or Romney?

If you guessed Romney, go to your room without supper.


With a few exceptions, Romney has maintained that Obama is a bad president who has turned to desperate tactics to try to save himself. But Romney has not made the case that Obama is a bad person, nor made a sustained critique of his morality a central feature of his campaign.

Obama, who first sprang to national attention with an appeal to civility, has made these kind of attacks central to his strategy. The argument, by implication from Obama and directly from his surrogates, is not merely that Romney is the wrong choice for president but that there is something fundamentally wrong with him.

To make the case, Obama and his aides have used an arsenal of techniques — personal ridicule, suggestions of ethical misdeeds and aspersions against Romney’s patriotism — that many voters and commentators claim to abhor, even as the tactics have regularly proved effective.

The unequal distribution of personal putdowns — Obama and his team indulging in them far more frequently than Romney — has been largely obscured by two factors.

One is the general negativity of the campaign, buffeted by charge and countercharge on an hourly basis, in which both sides have participated with abandon.

The other is the fact that Obama, over four years, has been subjected to so many personal assaults from the right, on issues such as whether he is lying about his place of birth or the content of his college transcripts. Lost in the smoke is the fact that few of the personal assaults — as opposed to political or policy criticisms — have come from Romney or his official representatives. The Romney campaign has leveled charges — on welfare reform, for instance — that take liberties with the truth, but few attacks on Obama as a person.


Read the whole article for a fascinating look at how personal attacks are the bread and butter of the Obama campaign.

There are a lot of Republicans who believe Romney should get in the gutter with Obama and mix it up. They want to resurrect the Reverend Wright controversy, the Bill Ayers association, the Khalidi video that the LA Times still won’t release, and, of course, calling out Obama for not releasing his college records.

For good or ill, the voters have already processed most of that information into their calculus and in 2008, decided to vote for Obama anyway. It may be emotionally satisfying to hit the president for lying about his relationship with Bill Ayers, but politically, it’s a wash.

Romney could certainly sharpen his criticism of Obama’s policies and how they have utterly failed. But getting into a spitting contest with the president on a personal level runs the risk of backfiring, causing Romney to lose precious ground. The perception by the voter of the president as a likeable figure makes personal attacks a gamble that Romney has apparently decided not to take.


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