Why political attack ads no longer scare you

The Wall Street Journal noted last week that 2008 may have more negative ads than any U.S. presidential contest in history, and yet few consumers seem to care. Why? The first rule of negative campaigning, WSJ suggests, is it must be about an issue that already worries voters. Both Obama and McCain have gone negative; Obama has tied McCain to the savings-and-loan scandal of the 1980s, and McCain (and Palin famously) have accused Obama of palling around with old terrorists.

Voters are scared, all right — about losing life savings and their jobs. In the limited attention span that Americans have for politics, they want to know who will solve their fears. Bringing up old radicals or scandals from decades ago just won’t stick, when the worrying rungs in our mental ladders are already full. The attack ads appear to have backfired most for McCain, who has been running more of them and still falling in the polls.

Photo: Thomas Hawk

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