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January 10, 2012


Brendan, nice reference to the Prisoners' Dilemma. I agree that a candidate would be hurt if s/he was too negative toward a fellow Republican in the debates. Yet, it seems to me that Romney pretty much got a pass on the negative ads run by his PAC.

It'll be interesting to see how effective Gingrich's attack ads turn out to be. The Real Clear Politics poll average shows Gingrich in third place in South Carolina, one percentage point behind Santorum. It's possible that Santorum will be the primary beneficiary of Gingrich's attack ads.

Here are some quibbles:

Last Saturday's debate was seen by 6.3 million viewers. If a majority of these viewers are Republicans who will vote in primary election, then I think they would constitute a significant percentage of primary voters.

Also, the news reports and analyses of the debates are more widely viewed than the debates themselves, and the analyses can go on for a longer period of time. These reports sometimes have a big impact, especially when a candidate did something wrong (or when the media portrays her/him of having done something wrong.)

I think the impact of negative ads is a separate issue from the recent Citizens United decision. Negative ads have been effective for a long time. Who can forget the daisy ad that LBJ used against Goldwater in 1964?

It looks like Brendan's comparison to the Prisoner's Dilemma is coming true as regards Gingrich's negative ads attacking Romney. Gingrich is being widely criticized in conservative media.

"Newt Gingrich's attacks on Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital are disgusting," Club for Growth President Chris Chocola said in a statement Monday night. "There are a number of issues for Mitt Romney's Republican opponents to attack him for, but attacking him for making investments in companies to create a profit for his investors is just wrong."
Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh said Gingrich "is using the language of the left."

The National Review weighed in on Gingrich's line of attack this morning, calling it "foolish and destructive.'' Former New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg joined the anti-Gingrich bandwagon in an interview with MSNBC's Chuck Todd. "We are a market economy,'' he said. Added Rep. Frank Gunta, sitting to his left: "I don't think (these attacks) belong in a Republican primary."

I don't recall this kind of criticism when Romney ads attacked Gingrich. I think one difference is that the Gingrich attacks are from the POV of the left -- the type of complaint the Occupy groups make. Perhaps a second difference is that Romney is seen as the presumptive Republican candidate. Gingrich's attacks will make it harder for Romney to win in November. (But, at the link shown above, Taranto argues that Gingrich's attacks could help Romney in the general election by forcing him to devise a defense now and by making those attacks seem like old news nine months from now.)

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