Kevin Drum thinks Kerry has fallen behind because the Democrats are unwilling to play dirty like the Republicans:
For all the hatred of Bush among liberals, we still aren’t as dedicated to our cause as conservatives are to theirs. After all, they’re dedicated enough to figure that fighting fair is just a sign of weakness. For better or worse, we’re not quite there yet.
Steve Bainbridge has a whole list of examples to the contrary.
I find the argument rather amusing, frankly. Both sides always think their side is being too nice and letting the other side get away with mudslinging. Largely, this is because negative attacks made by one’s own candidate are “the truth” whereas those made on the other side are “dirty lies,” “distortions,” or “the politics of personal destruction.” It’s just cognitive dissonance at its finest.
The Democrats point to things like the infamous “Willie Horton” ads from the 1988 race, which they blame on Lee Atwater. They conveniently forget that Al Gore used the same charges in the Democratic primaries.
Negative politics are hardly new, going back at least to charges that Thomas Jefferson was having an affair with one of his slaves. In modern times, it’s hard to think of a dirtier ad than the “mushroom cloud” spot that Democrat Lyndon Johnson ran against Barry Goldwater.
Kerry and company point to the harping on his Senate defense votes by Zell Miller and others at the GOP convention, arguing that they’re taken out of context. But they never explain what it is the context was. Further, they claim that pointing out that Kerry voted against important weapons programs is a challenge to his “patriotism,” which is absurd. Meanwhile, charges that Bush “misled us into war” for political purposes are viewed as perfectly legitimate. One can’t have it both ways.