RSS
Is going negative the only way Obama can win?
President Obama has taken heat over his attack ads against Mitt Romney, but in today's economy, hammering his opponent might be his only choice
 
President Obama speaks during a conference at the White House on May 30: Attacking Mitt Romney may be "the only card the Obama team has to play right now," but the strategy could backfire.
President Obama speaks during a conference at the White House on May 30: Attacking Mitt Romney may be "the only card the Obama team has to play right now," but the strategy could backfire.
Fang Zhe/Xinhua Press/CORBIS

President Obama has taken some flack for a series of negative ads his campaign has run against Republican challenger Mitt Romney, aimed at Romney's claim of being a job creator at Bain Capital and as governor of Massachusetts. Fox News analyst Brit Hume, for one, thinks Obama has little choice, telling Bill O'Reilly on Monday that "Obama's record is such a burden to him that he has no real choice but to go negative and go negative hard, which to a great extent he has." In fact, he hasn't, according to campaign ad analysts at Kantar Media — from April 10 to May 25, 70 percent of ads from Obama and Democratic allies have been positive, versus 73 percent negative advertising from Romney and aligned outside groups. But as the race heats up, and the economy shows signs of cooling down, is going negative Obama's only path to victory?

It's a risky strategy: "Given the lousy economic climate, attacking Romney may be the only card the Obama team has to play right now," says Liz Marlantes at The Christian Science Monitor, but the strategy could backfire. Bashing Romney's jobs record is still focusing the campaign on unemployment — "that's certainly the discussion the Romney campaign wants to be having." And more broadly, "any time an incumbent president goes negative, it can wind up making him look smaller."
"Obama ad attacks Mitt Romney's record...: Risky strategy?"

Attacking Romney is good politics: Obama has more than just the economy to worry about — he's going to get hit hard by Romney and $1 billion worth of super PAC attacks, says Peter Fenn at U.S. News. "For Obama to not engage in the battle, to focus on soft, fuzzy, feel-good ads would be a drastic mistake." He needs to highlight Romney's warts, "radically conservative" allies, and "reverse-Robin Hood" policies — for his own sake, and so voters can make "a reasoned and reliable judgment" on who's the best choice to lead America.
"The more Obama focuses in on Romney, the better... for voters"

Obama has to do more than just attack: The president can't just fight fire with fire, says Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast. He has to present a positive vision of what he's done and how he will be a better president than Romney, on everything from health care to taxes to wars to protecting the social safety net. "If those questions dominate the campaign, Obama will win." He needs "this positive contrast to balance the brutal attacks on Romney in advertising, or he'll risk losing that critical ingredient that made Obama Obama."
"How Obama can win"

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.

 

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week