Thursday, March 06, 2008

Can Barack win by going negative on Hillary?

Although Hillary does have plenty of vulnerabilities that Barack could go after, Hillary also has plenty of defenses and experience fighting off attacks, so that "going negative" could be a very risky proposition for him. The biggest risk for him will be that projecting an image of "going negative" will severely undercut his image as being squeaky-clean, super-positive, and "filled with hope", all the good things that had boosted him all along the way.

The other problem is that he himself also has vulnerabilities. For example, if he goes negative and really rips Hillary for not having any significant actual foreign policy experience, he immediately opens himself to the criticism of having even less experience himself. That would be a double net negative for him and only at worst a modest net negative for Hillary and maybe even a net positive after people compare her to him.

The obvious point that people seem to be ignoring is that the only reason that Barack feels that he has to go negative is that he does not really have anything positive to say about himself and his record other than mindlessly repeating his "hope" and "change" message which resonates to some extent, but with not with the middle of the road pragmatic centrists that he desperately needs to win over.

Maybe Barack's biggest problem with going negative is that all of Hillary's baggage has already been tossed around by the media ad nauseum to the degree that most people really aren't interested in hearing about any of it again. Almost literally, she can laugh most of it off, and then turn around and play that she is the candidate for hope and change and experience.

Besides, if Barack goes negative enough to actually do real damage to Hillary, people are simply not going to have the stomach for five weeks of that level of intensity, and he then risks turning her into a martyr or victim and watching her get a boost of sympathy vote.

The other thing that Barack has to keep in mind is that although he has had a great run, he may be getting to the stage where the honeymoon is over.

-- Jack Krupansky


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