When I asked readers if the Obama super PAC ad tying Mitt Romney to the death of a woman would result in a backlash, the Obama team had not yet endured another round of skewering on the Sunday talk shows. It wasn’t pretty to watch.
In any event, most commenters don’t think the ad matters one way or the other. (I suspect the Sunday shows wouldn’t have altered their view.) Finisterre writes: “Obama’s supporters don’t care what he says or does as long as he keeps the money flowing (government employees, recipients of food stamps and unemployment and other government benefits), so there won’t be any backlash among his supporters. Among his opponents, the negative ads only confirm what they already think. Among independents, the negative ads serve to emphasize that the President has no positive agenda. How could anyone want four more years of negativity like this?”
Eddiehaskell agrees that “most voters that follow closely will not be influenced one way or the other by the ad.” And Mickeykovars cracks:
“Maybe a little backlash, but not much — the Dems will simply pull the ad and show some new Bain ads. Memories are short. The Romney-killed-the-woman ad is already forgotten in the midst of the Ryan pick.
“The question now is what will evil genius [David] Axelrod come up with next. We’ve already covered felony tax evasion and murder, so he’ll have to come up with some new Romney atrocities.”
I generally agree with these readers, up to point. A single ad doesn’t inflict much damage nor does the backlash, if any. But the degree to which voters have become cynical and sophisticated in ad-watching (or muting or flipping the station) has convinced me that these ads are less effective with each election. Essentially, voters think all the ads are lying. In this case it does, however, give Romney a retort (“Are you going to believe the guy that called me a murderer?”) when other attacks, on Medicare for example, come along. And, yes, I think the sustained negativity has diminished Obama’s stature and probably turned off some optimistic young voters. Having shredded his own “hope and change” brand, it remains to be seen if demonizing Romney will actually serve as a substitute for a record on which Obama can run.