Incumbents launch personal attacks to divert attention from the economy’s poor performance

October 7, 2010 08:32

This election’s top issue is the economy, and the Democrats are being held accountable for its poor performance. After all, the party controls the White House and Congress and passed all the spending and stimulus measures it could dream up.

Karl Rove at The Wall Street Journal


In March 2004, when Barack Obama was a candidate for the U.S. Senate in the Illinois Democratic primary, he excoriated President George W. Bush for creating a “jobless recovery.” The month he said that, 334,000 new jobs were created—none of them temporary Census ones—and unemployment was 5.8%.

That was then. Now the unemployment rate is 9.6%, and tomorrow’s jobs report is unlikely to be much better.

Last month, the Pew poll found that Americans thought Republicans would be better at improving “the job situation” than the Democrats by a 40% to 35% margin—a 16-point shift since 2006.

How did the Democrats get here? By passing bad legislation. How bad? Not a single vulnerable House Democrat is featuring the stimulus bill in campaign ads—except for those Democrats who opposed it. Nor do any extol cap and trade in television spots.

Given this dismal picture, Democrats believe they have only one option: a thermonuclear assault on their GOP opponents, which means raising questions about their character, distorting their views, and making outlandish claims.

Personal attacks generally don’t work unless they’re seen as fair, credible and pertinent. Voters must think the character shortcomings are both persistent and relevant. If not, the assaults will fail, even backfire.


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