Monday, April 21, 2008

Negative Nellie in Pennsylvania

Maybe you noticed over the weekend that the campaigning in Pennsylvania got ugly. Maybe. Or maybe onlookers and Pennsylvanians alike made up their minds and spent a nice spring weekend outside trying to avoid the onslaught and any April surprises. As we inch closer to the Pennsylvania primary tomorrow several ideas are floating around in my head.

1) Why the negativity now from Obama?
In a season where voters have not taken to negative campaigning very well (Romney's out and Clinton's use of negativity before and after South Carolina seemed to aid, at least in part, Obama's post-Super Tuesday winning streak), it is an odd choice for the typically adept Obama campaign to opt for a seemingly more negative approach in the lead up to the latest "most crucial contest." Either the Obama camp is desperate for a win in Pennsylvania that would put an end to this race or they're hoping that Clinton receives the last minute blame attribution for the negativity (which could lead to an Obama win).

2) Does record registration in the Keystone state bode well for Obama?
That's what Politico's Jeanne Cunnings (via The Caucus) concludes. I've been burned on this sort of thing before; suggesting that high turnout in New Hampshire would mean a win for Obama. We can all see how that one turned out. I don't disagree with the conclusion but I do think that an Obama win may not be the result of a spike in registration.

3) What if Obama's trip to Negativeland is simply a ploy?
A calculated move? In politics? I shudder to think. But seriously, what if this is nothing but a clever ploy on the part of the Obama camp to play on Democrats' worst fears: a divisive primary that ruins their chances of winning in November? If voters are reminded of that are they more or less likely to want to put an end to the race? If Clinton gets that blame attribution, then Pennsylvanians could prove the decisive electorate in this race.

4) Will Pennsylvanians take the bait?
And could I cast that in any more negative a way? I don't know, but I have an idea. If you are in the voting booth and this negativity is affecting your decision, who loses the most points. Clinton has gone negative already, so even more negativity just builds on that perception. Obama has avoided negativity, or so the story goes, so any negativity from his campaign either really breaks from the past tenor of his campaign or is just an aberration.

The big questions then are who gets the blame for the recent rash of negativity and are Pennsylvanians tired (scared) enough of the potential for divisiveness to want to end the nomination race? The answers will decide who wins tomorrow and how quickly this thing may be wrapped up.


Robert said...

I think Obama gets the blame because much of his support comes because he has avoided the negativity. Voter suppression should favor Clinton, but we will see in about 30 hours!

Josh Putnam said...

I tend to agree with you Rob. This counterintuitive scenario popped into my head after our initial back and forth this morning and it really isn't that crazy. Are voters turned off by the Obama negativity or do they want the nomination to be over? Clinton wins the former and Obama the latter, but that is the tipping point for tomorrow.

Yeah, it'll be about 24 hours now and it can't come soon enough.

Robert said...

Your theories are interesting, but Obama can't afford to disillusion his base. I can't believe that we have finally made it through the voting drought! We'll actually have some real votes coming in soon. Looking forward to our live discussion tomorrow.

Josh Putnam said...

Yes, the meeting tomorrow will have some new fodder to feed off of and that's definitely not a bad thing.

Would Obama's base be that easily disillusioned? I don't know. Many are new voters and the conventional wisdom would hold that they are more likely to be pushed in that direction by his recent negativity. But all the same, they are new voters and we have no real idea how they'll react. It may be that they are in it because of the "new direction" Obama is trying to take politics. Or it could be that they are in it for that, but don't mind their candidate counter-punching when hit with negativity from two fronts.

I don't have the answers here, but we'll have a better idea of how it has gone this evening.