Another Reason Why Going Negative Is a Bad Thing

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Elections 2012
Illustration by Emily Metcalf

BY FRANK SALVATO – Unless you are an inside-the-beltway campaign consultant or you have been living an oblivious life, you most likely stand with the rest of the American electorate in being increasingly disgusted with the negative tone that the Republican candidates for President have employed over the last few months. The opportunity for the GOP candidates to coalesce behind a common goal – the “de-transformation of the United States of America” – is slowly passing.

The opportunity for them to embrace a teachable moment so as to explain, in layman’s terms, why the country has suffered under the current administration’s policies, and why their proposed platforms bring relief to individuals and business owners across the political ideological divide, is slowly fading into the history books as “what could have been.” It doesn’t have to be this way, but, then, the proprietary minions of the inside-the-beltway GOP establishment don’t much care for the notions of we “fly-over” types. They know all about campaign strategy. Just ask them.


If avoiding the alienation of the electorate’s goodwill wasn’t enough of a reason not to go so personally and caustically negative, there is the notion that in doing so a great amount of damage would be done to each of the candidates, so much so – and for no other reason than to win the nomination at all cost – that the Obama campaign would be handed a full arsenal of negative talking-point ammunition for the General Election campaign. Armed with this free opposition research, already tested for its maximum destructive potency, and close to a $1 billion campaign war chest, David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett, David Plouffe and Roberts Gibbs could get a mentally challenged three-toed tree sloth elected over the Republican challenger.

And while there is merit to the argument that the negative attack campaigning is “honing” the eventual candidate’s ability to confront the Obama campaign’s inevitable onslaught of attack ads and smear tactics, the fact of the matter is this: Axelrod, Jarrett, Plouffe, Gibbs and President Obama himself are infinitely more acclimated and proficient in the ways of Saul Alinsky than anyone on the Right side of the aisle, short of David Horowitz. The idea that any Republican candidate can compete in the arena of Alinsky negative political campaigning is a reality only in the realm of the absurd. Only a megalomaniac of a Republican campaign strategist would even entertain such a ridiculous notion.

Proof positive that the attack and smear campaign strategy currently being employed by the GOP primary candidates is doing more harm than good comes in the poll numbers. Yes, Mitt Romney’s attack ads aided his campaign in Iowa against Newt Gingrich. And yes, Newt Gingrich’s attack ads helped him in South Carolina. And again, attack ads helped Mr. Romney beat Mr. Gingrich in Florida – even though it cost him close to $17 million to achieve that victory.

But, in the end, it was Rick Santorum who – without spending millions of dollars – swept the caucuses in Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri. Out of all of the Republican candidates, Santorum has waged the least negative campaign where attacking his fellow Republicans is concerned. I suppose one could go as far as to say that not only does Mr. Santorum believe and adhere to the Ten Commandments, he holds faithful to the “Eleventh Commandment” as well, or, at least better than the others.

But aside from the GOP primary candidates’ poll numbers and approval ratings – and perhaps more importantly, we need to look at what happened to President Obama’s poll numbers while the mainstream media was fixated on the negative campaigning of the GOP primary candidates.

In December of 2011, at the quasi-official onset on the GOP Primary cycle, President Obama’s poll numbers were something that the “axis political powers” of Axelrod, Jarrett, Plouffe and Gibbs were starting to become concerned about. His disapproval rating stood at 51.4 percent while his approval rating was an alarming 43.2 percent. Yet today, in just two and a half short months, Mr. Obama has reversed those numbers. Today, Mr. Obama’s disapproval rating is 47.0 percent and his approvals are at 49.0, according to the average of the major polls as of February 9, 2012.

Traditionally, negatives, or disapproval ratings – the percentage of people sampled who voice a disapproval of the elected official’s performance – are much harder to turn around than approval ratings. When someone disapproves of the performance of an elected official it takes an incredible amount of “good behavior” on the elected official’s part or an extraordinary event to change that perception.

This is also the case with voter turnout. It is always easier to motivate people to turn out at the polls to vote against someone or something. To wit, in 2008 Mr. Obama’s supporters were more motivated to vote against President George W. Bush than they were convinced by the obtuse and undefined notion of “hope and change,” a recycled campaign slogan from the Clinton campaigns.

It can be easily established that Mr. Obama didn’t execute a change of agenda to affect “good behavior.”

▪ His performance in Middle East diplomacy has been dismal; his alienation of the Israelis has resulted in a movement to the Right among the American Jewish voters.

▪ The American voter has finally come to the realization that the Obama Administration’s Labor Department has been “cooking the books” where the unemployment numbers are concerned; true unemployment, when those who have given up looking for work out of exasperation are calculated in, stands at 22.5 percent.

▪ And Mr. Obama has gone out of his way to offend not only Catholics with an incredible transgression against religious liberties in his contraception mandate, a mandate aimed at Catholic universities, hospitals and philanthropic organizations, he has motivated the whole of the religious community in the United States to rally against this element of Obamacare.

So, with the idea that Mr. Obama has turned his disapprovals around because he executed “good behavior” disproved, we can only surmise that something else affected this dramatic turn-around; something extraordinary.

Now, what took place between last December and today? Could it have been Republican primary votes and caucuses in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado? Could it have been millions of dollars spent on ads ripping our Republican candidates apart; ads that smeared the records and characters of those who would run against Mr. Obama in November?

As I stated in an earlier article on this very subject:

“Mr. Gingrich, you’re a professor (and not a fake activist professor, like the one currently inhabiting the Oval Office)…seize the teachable moment to explain to the American people why Capitalism works, why limited government works, why American entrepreneurship is the best in the world when allowed to be free…

“Mr. Romney, seize the teachable moment. Abandon the negative campaigning and explain to the American people why Capitalism is good; why venture Capitalism serves a great purpose; and why redistribution of wealth only creates a non-motivated society that eventually devolves into the Atlas Shrugged storyline.”

I meant it then and, with the reality that this ridiculous and self-serving negative campaigning is literally aiding Mr. Obama’s approval ratings, I mean it even more now. Our candidates – Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul – have a golden opportunity to inform and educate the American citizenry on some of the most basic and critical elements of Americanism; elements blurred by the bribery entitlement mentality of the Progressive Movement and, especially, the Obama Administration. Pray tell, what do you really think this underwater mortgage homeowner bailout is all about? Why now? Think about it!!

There comes a time when even politicians have to come to the realization that they have an obligation to do what is right for the country before they do what is advantageous for themselves. That time, for the Republican Primary participants, is now. It is one thing to debate differences where issues and ideology are concerned.

We the People expect and deserve that from those vying for public office. It is quite another to employ, narcissistically, the tactics of slash-and-burn politics for the sole reason of “winning.” We the People, the nation, in the memories of the Framers and the blood of true Revolutionaries – our children’s’ futures – do not deserve that.