Breaking News: Candidates Criticizing Each Other
I just received a CNN Breaking News Alert: GOP candidates breaking Reagan’s 11th commandment.
Forget the pleasantries. The criticism grows sharper by the day in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
The reason: Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, John McCain and Fred Thompson are bunched at the top with voting to begin in just a matter of weeks. “We’re now into a 90-day sprint and each of the campaigns is struggling for a strategy,” said Scott Reed, Republican Bob Dole’s 1996 campaign manager. “Who do they take out, who do they go after and who do they risk alienating by being the aggressor? They’re all trying to figure that out.”
There’s obvious risk. Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt went negative in the 2004 Democratic primary, and their strategies backfired. They lost when voters gravitated toward above-the-fray candidates John Kerry and John Edwards.
Four years later, the leading Republican candidates — Thompson, Giuliani, Romney and McCain — are keenly aware that criticizing one another could turn off a certain GOP segment and boost their own negative images in voters’ minds. But given the current circumstances, all of them, to varying degrees, figure the risk is worth the potential benefit — breaking out of the pack to become the clear front-runner.
So, they are taking on one another with increased frequency and heightened ferocity. Thus far, the criticism largely has been limited to rhetoric. Some candidates have poked at their rivals in a handful of radio commercials, but the contrasts have been subtle. None has run negative television ads. Yet.
This is breaking news?