Voters Notice McCain Going Negative

John McCain has been running a negative campaign, and possibly benefiting based upon his recent improvement in the polls. Considering how little predictive value pre-convention polls have had in the past, it is questionable whether this gain means anything at all. On the other hand, general percenptions of the candidate can last and ultimately might have an impact on how people vote, and voters are seeing McCain as the one who is going negative:

By a nearly six-to-one margin, voters say Republican presidential candidate John McCain is running a negative campaign against his Democratic rival, Barack Obama, according to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

Nearly three in 10 voters, 29%, pointed to McCain as the candidate running a negative campaign, compared to just 5% who said Obama is running a negative campaign. McCain’s 29% rating is the highest of any one candidate in the previous two presidential elections according to the WSJ/NBC News survey.

The challenge for Obama will be to turn this against McCain while still taking the offensive and  highlighting the differences between them, as Obama reportedly intends to do at the convention. Obama will especially benefit if the comparison is changed from whether the candidates are negative to whether they are honest and fair in their criticism. As I’ve discussed before, there is a tremendous difference here. Criticism of the other candidate over areas of disagreement might be negative but is fair game. Lying about the record and positions of the other candidate, which was done earlier by Hillary Clinton and now is being done by John McCain, is an entirely different matter. Hopefully the voters will realize that candidates who resort to such dishonest tactics to get elected are likely to continue to engage in such dishonest once in office. We’ve seen the consequences of this as Rove-style politics led to Rove-style government in which the country was lied into a foolish war.

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