Negative Campaign Season

Well, it looks like this week marks the start of the negative campaigning season of the 2012 GOP nomination. Until now, the GOP has held a united front against incumbent President Obama, but now they’ve started attacking each other, too. Texas republican Ron Paul brought to voter’s attention Newt Gingrich’s record of flip-flopping on key issues and lobbying for insider millions, while former Utah governor and ambassador to China Jon Huntsman attacked former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney for taking massive donations from big corporations as well as being a flip-flopper himself. What I want to know is: will it work? Does negative campaigning really help the candidates win, or in this case does it just make them look worse by openly bashing a member of the party they are supposed to support?

I believe that some negative campaigning can be beneficial. Sometimes, the only way for voter’s to know that a candidate is not as qualified for an office as they claim is to dig through their dirty laundry. Sometimes, negative campaigning does this for us. Things like exposing candidates for their wavering viewpoints on important issues need to be exposed. Voters’ don’t want a candidate who refuses to take a stance and fight for their beliefs. The average American would not know that a candidate is not fit to serve without some negative campaign strategies.  

While some negativity is helpful, some negative campaigning definitely goes too far. When things like a candidate’s religion or personal family life are attacked, negative ads are hitting below the belt. Things that will not affect a candidate’s ability to serve the country have no business being attacked. These below the belt attacks do as much harm to the candidate that puts them out as they do to the candidate they are attacking. If voters see a candidate as nothing more than a negative campaigner, that candidate will not be elected.

The double-edged sword of negative campaigning can be an easy one to be cut by, which raises another important question. If it is so easy to make yourself look bad by releasing negative campaign propaganda, why does anyone do it? The simple answer to this is because as long as negativity is used in moderation, it will quite frequently work. Former President George W. Bush ran an extremely negative campaign in several states, but was viewed by voters as a candidate that took the high road. A negative campaign rarely raises the polls for the candidate using it, but it will bring their opponent down in the polls. This tilt of the game board is sometimes all it takes to get a candidate elected.

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