By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 22, 2013 - 0 Comments
As Paul notes, a new poll has found that 70% of respondents believe the attack ads launched by the Conservatives against Justin Trudeau are unfair. Maybe that means something. Maybe a few years from now we’ll be citing this survey with irony.
Three years ago, Nanos found that attack ads launched against Michael Ignatieff had left 65% of respondents with a more negative view of Stephen Harper. Angus Reid and Ipsos Reid also found negative impacts on the Prime Minister. Two years later, Mr. Harper had a majority mandate and Mr. Ignatieff’s political career was over.
In reviewing the latest science on campaign advertising last year, Sadie Dingfelder suggested the fears about a backlash against attack ads (at least in the United States) were dissipating, but NPR found that the evidence of effectiveness was mixed. That said, attack ads have at least one public proponent: the senior strategist for Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.
David Axelrod, Obama’s senior strategist, felt he had been given a gift. For months, he had worried that the Romney campaign would find a way to present its candidate in a compelling fashion. But as far as Axelrod could tell, the Romney campaign had no such strategy. “I questioned why they didn’t spend more time and energy early defining Romney in a fuller way so people could identify with him,” Axelrod said in a postelection interview. “One of my conclusions is so much of his life was kind of walled off from use. His faith is important to him, but they didn’t want to talk about that. His business was important, but they didn’t want to talk about that much. His governorship was important to him, but his signature achievement [health care] was unhelpful to them in the Republican primary. My feeling is you have to build a candidacy on the foundation of biography. That is what authenticates your message. I was always waiting for that happen.”
Axelrod jumped at the opening. In a major gamble, the Obama campaign moved $65 million in advertising money that had been budgeted for September and October into June, enabling the president to unleash a series of attacks that would define Romney at a time when the Republican would have little money to respond. From Axelrod’s viewpoint, the timing was perfect. Romney had been weakened by assaults from fellow GOP candidates during the primaries. Romney alienated many Hispanics by suggesting that illegal immigrant families should “self-deport,” and he said he had been a “severely conservative” governor, hurting his strategy to move to the middle for the general election.
Mr. Trudeau has stated a general aversion to negativity—which is perhaps a principled position, but also surely at least something of a political calculation—but it will be interesting to see what that means in practice. Will his adverts avoid all criticism of the government side? Will they include criticism, but also happy thoughts and smiley images?
A few years ago, in the midst of an earlier round of attack ads, I compiled some of the scathing reviews those ads received and was (perhaps rightly) mocked for doing so. The general discussion around attack ads risks becoming like the general discussion around civility, in which we all rend our garments over some vague idea—undefinable at best, simplistic at worst—that things should be somehow better. I tend to agree that our politics should not be soul-crushingly awful to watch and participate in. I suppose the most virulent demagoguery should be discouraged and we should hope to never get to a point at which outright lies are accepted as acceptable. But past that, it is all in the eye of the beholder. One man’s destructive attack ad is another’s necessary critique.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 10:43 AM - 0 Comments
A few years ago, the NDP consulted with some of Barack Obama’s campaign organizers. And Michael Ignatieff could claim friends and acquaintances around the Obama administration. But one of Justin Trudeau’s supporters got to take part in a sleepover at David Axelrod’s house.
Marie Bountrogianni, a former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister who is supporting Trudeau, was in Chicago and Iowa to help out in the final days of the U.S. presidential election this month and even stayed overnight at Axelrod’s country home in Michigan, along with a dozen other volunteers.
She said she was “blown away” by the high degree of sophistication in the Obama organization — the technology, the discipline and its ability to execute large shifts in strategy. Bountrogianni was initially assigned to be part of a get-out-the-vote (GOTV) brigade in Wisconsin, but dozens of volunteers were suddenly rerouted to Iowa, where they were greeted with new packages of call orders and scripts to follow. “I couldn’t believe how organized they were,” she said. Liberals are in the midst of a large effort here to raise their own game in gathering databases and building home-grown technical sophistication, with hardware purchased from the Obama Democrats. Bountrogianni says Liberals should pay close attention to how the Obama team has pulled this off, especially among disengaged voters and with the help of masses of micro-donations.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, August 19, 2010 at 1:54 PM - 0 Comments
The long-building trend toward coverage of the presidency and politics as pure sport has reached absurd levels. Obama makes fun of this, as he did in his recent speech at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, when he displayed a series of mock headlines, summing up how Politico might have covered great debates of the past, including this one: LINCOLN SAVES UNION, BUT CAN HE SAVE HOUSE MAJORITY? As images flashed on giant screens in the Washington Hilton ballroom, Obama added, “I don’t know if you can see, there’s a little portion there. ‘He’s lost the southern white vote.’ It’s an astute analysis.” The nomenclature of the reigning political chatfests and tip sheets says it all: Hardball, Playbook, The Daily Rundown. Forget Congressional Quarterly. It’s the Daily Racing Form. “The whole town is kind of in the thrall, in the grips, of A.D.D.,” David Axelrod says. “It’s hard to keep anyone’s attention focused on anything, and everything is judged through the prism of what this means for the election next November.”
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 3, 2010 at 1:21 PM - 16 Comments
In the wake of Barack Obama’s appearance at a Republican gathering last week, a rather eclectic and impressive group of Americans is demanding their own “Question Time.” David Corn at Mother Jones explains. Balk at the Awl dissents. David Axelrod isn’t convinced.
POLITICO asked White House senior adviser David Axelrod about the possibility of regular question time on Monday, before the online campaign was announced, and he said the president’s aides were more likely to look for one-shot opportunities for Obama to engage with Republicans. ”The thing that made Friday interesting was the spontaneity,” Axelrod said. “If you slip into a kind of convention, then conventionality will overtake the freshness of that.”
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Friday, October 24, 2008 at 3:46 PM - 0 Comments
The New Republic has an interesting profile of Obama’s campaign strategist, David Axelrod, and his time-tested multi-part strategy for getting various black candidates elected. Also interesting: how resistant he was to take Obama on as a client. (Axelrod was also the guy who in 2004 help take one Senator John Edwards from relative obscurity to the VP slot on the Democratic ticket.)