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Do voters care whether Obama's campaign is nasty?
The Democrat who ran on hope and change in 2008 is pummeling Mitt Romney with cold-blooded ruthlessness
 
Team Obama has used a barrage of attack ads to keep the media focused on Mitt Romhey's taxes and tenure at Bain Capital.
Team Obama has used a barrage of attack ads to keep the media focused on Mitt Romhey's taxes and tenure at Bain Capital.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Democrats have many bitter memories of seeing their presidential candidates get pounded into the ground by brutal Republican attack ads (see Kerry, John), so perhaps it's no surprise that some liberals are gleeful at the way Team Obama has kept Mitt Romney on the ropes with an unflagging assault on Romney's tenure at the private equity firm Bain Capital. The Romney campaign has accused Obama of demeaning the presidency and demanded an apology, apparently in the hopes that voters will remember that Obama "promised to lift the nation above petty sniping and political game-playing" when he ran for office in 2008, says John Dickerson at Slate. But do voters care whether Obama's campaign is nasty?

Yes. Voters are disgusted by Obama's tactics: The president has shown that he will do whatever it takes to remain in power, including "shouting, jeering, name calling, and above all lying," says Roger Kimball at PJMedia. His attacks on Bain are a "constant, hectoring effort to distract voters from his record," and Romney's counterattacks on Obama's nasty campaigning have been effective in exposing Obama's hypocrisy. It's clear that Obama's "empty egalitarian rhetoric was merely a ploy to perpetuate his own power," and "by the time November rolls around, all he'll have left is the sympathy vote." 
"Barracking your way to the top"

No. Most voters can live with it: Romney's strategy assumes that many swing voters "value Obama's original hope-and-change message," but the fact is, many "never bought it in the first place," says Dickerson. After all, in 2008, Obama was "willing to tear down his opponents if necessary," and people largely voted for him because he was the opposite of George W. Bush. True believers may think the attack ads are a shame, "but it's a mild disappointment they're willing to overlook." And many Obama fans find his "tougher side an asset."
"Obama winning ugly"

And the Obama campaign is really good at it: Let's "pause for two beats" and pay homage to the "ruthless killing machine that is the" Obama campaign, says Mark Halperin at TIME. "They have parceled out their opposition research in a manner both strategic and tactical," ensuring that the Bain story and the controversy over Romney's unreleased tax returns remain almost constantly in the news. "And, make no mistake, the Obamans are sitting on even more research that they will unfurl down the road." It's no wonder Republicans are complaining.
"Status of Bain and Romney's tax returns"

If anything, it's Romney's whining that will turn off voters: "Observe Obama's inability to suppress a delighted smile when asked" by the press if he'll apologize for attacking Bain, says Timothy Noah at The New Republic. The Obama campaign knows that "the more Romney whines, the worse he looks," and the "mystery is why Romney's campaign aides allow him to continue being such a crybaby." Romney has based his campaign on his experience at Bain, and when it's attacked he should vigorously defend it. "Bawling about how mean the president is being about how you made your fortune" is not the way to voters' hearts.
"Mitt Romney, crybaby capitalist"

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

 

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