GOSH, I WONDER WHAT PERCENTAGE OF ROMNEY'S ADS AGAINST OBAMA WILL BE NEGATIVE
You've probably seen this stat:
Negative ads were so prevalent in the final week before the Florida primary that they accounted for 92 percent of all campaign commercials that ran....
Mr. Gingrich, outspent and underfinanced, was the primary target.
The bulk of the ads were run by Mr. Romney and his PAC, Restore Our Future, which spent a combined $15.4 million on television and radio advertising in Florida....
The tone and content of the commercials were almost as lopsided. Of all the spots that ran in Florida for the last week, 68 percent were attacks on Mr. Gingrich, Kantar Media found....
Mustang Bobby writes:
Besides a lot of money, the other thing that Mitt Romney has going for him is that he is running against thoroughly unlikeable opponents. Mr. Romney is no Mr. Personality, but the striking thing is how lucky he was to run against people like Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum, all of whom generated a hateful vibe, even for Republicans.... I think one of the big factors in his win last night was that Florida Republicans saw Newt Gingrich bombasting on TV and thought Wow, do I want to watch that asshole for the next four years?
I strongly disagree with this. Republican voters? They fall for Santorum's aw-shucks Boy Scout act and think Bachmann is just a nice lady who hates gay people only because she has such a deep, abiding love for Jesus and freedom. As for Gingrich, GOP voters may have ultimately soured on him, but watching him for four years is precisely what they want, or wanted for quite a while. They wanted to watch him smite Barack Obama with his mighty tongue on continuous loop all through the fall, and then watch him smite reporters and brown people and Harry Reid endlessly after that. It's their version of a first-person shooter game, and they they wanted to spend the rest of their lives playing it. I think they still feel that way -- or at least they still secretly hanker for the Newt they saw in the debates with Juan Williams and John King, the one who seemed as if he couldn't be stopped. Romney stopped him, which made him look weak, and vulnerable to the Obama campaign, so they reluctantly gave up on their view of him as a conquering Visigoth. But they still want a conquering Visigoth.
As Charlie Pierce notes, they got a semi-Visigoth in Romney:
Very early [last] evening, the MSNBC embed with the Romney campaign opined that following Romney around the last couple of days, when it became clear that the election was in the bag, was something like watching an episode of Dexter, the TV show about the charming-as-hell serial killer.... In addition to being a singularly appalling liar, Mitt Romney also has all the basic qualities of a considerable bully. He ruthlessly shoved aside a hapless but nonetheless incumbent Republican governor in order get himself elected in Massachusetts. You've seen him have to rein it in a little on the debate stage. (Believe me, there's more of that to come.) And you saw it on Tuesday night, when Willard accepted victory, and then launched into his usual litany of lies about the president (the president doesn't "want to amass record deficits" -- honestly, no, he doesn't) -- spiced with just the right amount of upper-crust sneering.
I was particularly amused by this little aside: "Like his colleagues in the faculty lounge who think they know better, President Obama demonizes and denigrates almost every sector of our economy."
... But it was how Romney delivered the speech that was so revelatory. This is a rich kid who likes flogging The Help. There were just enough shit-eating, country-club grins as he delivered his rancid material to show you what the guy must have been like in those golden moments when he realized that there was more dough in wrecking a company than in investing in it.
Even after twenty-plus years of Limbaugh and fifteen or so of Fox, the ugliest presidential campaign of modern times is still arguably the Poppy Bush campaign of 1988. Well, I think Romney's campaign this year is going to be that Lee Atwater/Floyd Brown campaign on steroids, specifically super-PAC steroids. It's not just Romney's personal and demographic similarity to Bush the Elder. The "faculty lounge" crack quoted by Pierce is an echo of Bush's assertion that Michael Dukakis's policies were "born in Harvard Yard's boutique." The willingness to brazenly fake patriotic sanctimony -- see Romney's incessant invocation of "America the Beautiful" -- precisely echoes the visits to flag factories and other showoffy efforts Bush made to distinguish himself from the ACLU-invoking opponent whose wife was scurrilously rumored to have burned an American flag.
And mock that "America the Beautiful" stuff if you will, but that plus the new habit the Republicans have of beginning debates with the Pledge of Allegiance or the national anthem tells me that Romney's going to jab President Obama on patriotism until he draws at least a little bit of blood. I can easily imagine him turning to Obama on a debate stage and challenging him to recite second and third verses of some patriotic song or other; we Jon Stewart watchers will chortle, but it might actually connect in Appalachia. I have no doubt that Romney would stoop to that McCarthyite low.
And the ads -- remember that the Willie Horton ad came not from the official Bush campaign but from an ostensibly independent outside group. (Yes, Citizens United.) It's going to happen again. We're not going to get birtherism, but we're going to get distortions and insinuations that approach birther level -- whatever the right thinks will go just to the limit and not quite give the mainstream press the vapors. It's going to be ugly. It's going to be every stereotype from the Protocols of the Elders of Liberalism. It's going to be patriotism and race and gun-grabbing and Soros and Molotov cocktails tossed to a Grateful Dead soundtrack. Romney and his super PAC aren't going to refrain from any line of attack.
Will it work? I don't know. Obama's no slouch. But it will be exceedingly nasty.