By William Rabbe on 08/21/2008
Having been lambasted by the McCain camp as an out of touch, race-card-playing celebu-tante, Barack Obama is fighting back this week -- and pragmatic Democrats who worried that Obama's "above the fray" non-responsive approach would doom his candidacy are sighing with relief.
The cardinal rule of negative campaigning is: "when attacked, attack back," -- or perhaps better summarized by veteran democratic strategist, Paul Begala: "it's hard for your opponent to say bad things about you when your fist is in his mouth."
The most classic victims of "refuse-to-fight-back-syndrome" are Michael Dukakis in 1988 and John Kerry in 2004. Both democratic candidates did not want to dignify their opponents attacks with a response and both paid a high price as a result. Somehow more democrats fail to learn this lesson than republicans...
So, is Obama's fist in McCain's mouth?
It's pretty good, but won't rouse as much attention as McCain's ad featuring Brittney and Paris... (Although, the injury to McCain was compounded when Rea Hederman Jr., of the conservative Heritage Foundation, said that the middle class would pay less taxes under an Obama administration.)
So, it seems Obama has learned the lessons that have beleaguered so many of his democratic predecessors with an effective negative ad campaign... but will it stick? For Obama to be successful, he must construct a believable narrative for his opponent that confirms the suspicions that American's have of John McCain... so, while these ads may come a little late, this is an effective start.