Republicans Shying Away From Attacking Obama Personally
GOP officials are reluctant to resurrect the personal attacks against the President used during the 2008 campaign.
Yahoo News’s Rachel Rose Hartman was accidentally invited onto what was supposed to be a private conference call between Republican Party officials and surrogates, and some of the advice given was interesting to say the least:
Republicans on a private Republican National Committee conference call with allies warned Tuesday that party surrogates should refrain from personal attacks against President Barack Obama, because such a strategy is too hazardous for the GOP.
“We’re hesitant to jump on board with heavy attacks” personally against President Obama, Nicholas Thompson, the vice president of polling firm the Tarrance Group, said on the call. “There’s a lot of people who feel sorry for him.”
Recent polling data indicates that while the president suffers from significantly low job approval ratings, voters still give “high approval” to Obama personally, Thompson said.
Voters “don’t think he’s an evil man who’s out to change the United States” for the worse–even though many of the same survey respondents agree that his policies have harmed the country, Thompson said. The upshot, Thompson stressed, is that Republicans should “exercise some caution” when talking about the president personally.
National Review’s Michael Walsh isn’t happy about this at all:
Gee, if Obama’s personal-approval numbers are still high, why would you want to take them down? Let them stay there, lest the Democrat-Media Complex accuse you of being a blue meanie.
Remember, GOP: principles, not policies. Principles, not policies. Principles, not policies.
It’s not Obama’s policies that are the problem, it’s Obama and everything he represents and stands for. Engage the president on the deepest, most potent level, or join John McCain and Bob Dole on the ash heap of history.
Really, this party is too dumb to live.
Walsh, no doubt, is one of those people who holds on to the fantasy that if only the McCain/Palin ticket had spent the two months between Labor Day and Election Day 2008 talking about Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright, then they would’ve won. The problem with this theory is that there’s no reason to believe it’s true. For one thing, the Republican campaign was hobbled from the beginning by the fact that it was, well, Republican and so was the incumbent President, who was growing more unpopular by the day. Then, the financial crisis hit, on the same day the John McCain makes a speech saying the economy was “fundamentally sound.” McCain’s follow-up response, to “suspend” his campaign to return to Washington, a move that every single person saw as the joke that it was. By the end of September, it was unclear that there was anything that could be done to resurrect McCain/Palin. People like Walsh also forget that the campaign did go personally negative against Obama in October 2008. It showed up in Sarah Palin’s speeches, in the audiences at John McCain’s rallies, and it was all over the campaign surrogate operations on talk radio and Fox News Channel. The impact? The more negative the McCain campaign got, the worse they did in the polls. The people spoke. The idea that they’d react differently to a similar negative campaign this time around is sheer silly.
The one thing Republicans have never been able to wrap their heads around is the fact that the American public generally likes Barack Obama. Even now, when his job approval numbers are negative, his personal favorability numbers are generally positive. That’s a tremendous advantage for him, and the reason why a totally negative campaign like the one that Walsh seems to favor would likely be suicide.