The Background: The 2008 primary elections are approaching an end, and the fog is beginning to clear over which candidates will represent their parties in the upcoming presidential election. Prior to the March 4th primaries, John McCain had a clear advantage in the Republican vote, while Barack Obama held the lead over Hillary Clinton for the Democratic vote. Clinton, fearing her presidential nomination slipping away, heightened the aggression in her campaign tactics. She recently released a controversial commercial implying that the well being of America’s youth may be at risk with an Obama victory. She also claimed that her experience and savvy in national security qualify her as the best candidate. Obama’s camp quickly dismissed this ad as a scare tactic. He then released an eerily similar commercial citing his consistency in opposing the war in Iraq, clearly also referencing Hillary’s previous vote to enter the war.
The Issue: The primary issue surrounding this story is how effective such tactics can be in swaying the public vote and how such tactics reflect upon the candidates’ characters. Both candidates have been accused of using scare tactics in order to woo voters. The Clinton camp has already declared victory in this commercial debacle. Clinton strategist, Mark Penn, said the ad showed Americans “who’s ready and prepared to be commander-in-chief.” He also said this commercial signaled a change in momentum in the presidential race. But the question is whether voters will be turned off by fear or have a renewed sense of security behind a candidate. Since the commercials were virtually the same, despite a few sentences, each candidate could have the edge. So far, they have caused quite the political firestorm with each candidate producing their own retaliation commercials in preparation for the March 4th primaries. Upon being posted on YouTube, Clinton’s ad has nearly 700,000 hits while Obama’s has just over 300,000 as of March 5.
Anna Catherine’s Opinion: When I first heard of these commercials, I was very interested, not only because of the upcoming election, but also because of the negative or positive tone that might come with these commercials. I will admit that Clinton’s commercial was very strong and gave voters what they wanted to hear — that Hillary is experienced in national security and is ready to respond to any situation. The part that I originally thought might hurt Hillary in this commercial was that she and Obama used the same canned images of children sleeping. Would this make the Clinton camp seem like they are taking the easy way out in producing commercials, or is this just common procedure? I still haven’t found the answer to these questions, but I think Obama having the same images makes Hillary seem like they are really taking the easy way out. It showed that Hillary’s commercial really wasn’t that special to begin with and that Obama is just as prepared as she is. Preparedness is key in these situations. I am constantly amazed at how fast the different campaigns are to react to everything. They are always quick to retaliate and “one-up” the other. Obama’s camp was very quick to react in this situation, for which they are being praised. Within hours, he had his own video out on the Internet with almost the exact same information. But does that mean that Obama simply copied Clinton or was it all part of his strategy? We may never know the reasoning behind this, but we will know the effects come November.
Anthony’s Opinion: This approaching presidential election has had a distinct train wreck feeling to it since the beginning of the primaries. The Republican Party failed to groom a proper successor to Bush, leaving the GOP with a slew of candidates, half of which no one knew existed. With McCain emerging from this mixed bag of cartoon characters, the only drama left remains with the Democrats. As the two remaining heavyweights exchange blows, and as Clinton remains trailing, it comes as no surprise that she would try an unorthodox yet recycled method of scare tactics. The real surprise is that such tactics appear to have worked, as Clinton claimed campaign-saving victories in Ohio and Texas. Yet for all the huffing and puffing and mudslinging she has done, she still finds herself in an uphill battle. This creates an interesting question. When will a candidate emerge who abstains from the stale, exhausted opponent-bashing techniques of yester year and instead take the high ground? How refreshing would it be if the next generation of voters could have a good guy (or gal) to identify with and support?