Negative Attacks A Risky Strategy For Barack Obama

It's not often true that Americans reject negative campaigning. But they certainly seem to be doing so now in the case of President Obama's attacks on Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

The president recognizes he can't improve the economy much between now and Election Day. And he can't count on outside events to help—the situations in Europe and the Middle East are more likely to get worse than better by fall. So he has tried to make this campaign about Romney's fitness for office.

Bain Capital. The "War on Women." Dogs for Obama. Efforts to tie Romney to George W. Bush. Questions about Romney's term as governor of Massachusetts. Fox News' Chris Stirewalt says, "[N]o incumbent American president has ever gone so negative, so early." And the president promises to keep it up, to define Romney as a bad man now, and then possibly switch to a policy discussion later.

Usually, this is done the other way around. Candidates present their vision for what they'd do with a first (Romney) or second (Obama) term. Then, they court those still undecided through negative ads.

Doing this backwards is risky for President Obama. He's losing support among independents, women, and business. Peggy Noonan says the attacks make Obama "look small and scared."Even President Clinton has objected to his assault on venture capital and said Romney "crosses the qualification threshold," which many observers took as a signal to lighten up on the Bain rhetoric.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at U.S. News & World Report

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published this page in In The News 2012-06-04 15:00:00 -0400
Analysis & Political Strategy