With respect to Yuval Levin’s point about the effect of negative campaigning on the respective candidates–
When the Obama campaign was at it’s apogee six months ago, its narrative– and Obama’s appeal– consisted of the following components: 1) he transcends race; 2) he has superior judgment; 3) he’s a post-partisan, non-ideological moderate; and 4) he’s a nice, decent guy. For most of the primary season, the narrative filled the voids in Obama’s resume and experience. The claims underlying the narrative have now evaporated —primarily due to Obama’s self-inflicted wounds :
- Claim: Transcends race. Obama’s a post-racial healer; he doesn’t count by race.
Reality: 20 year membership in Rev. Wright’s church; staunch supporter of racial preferences in public employment, contracting and school admissions; profligate insinuations of racism; even the New York Times notices he fails to transcend race.
- Claim: Superior judgment. Obama’s lack of experience is more than offset by superior judgment. See, e.g., his opposition to the Iraq war.
Reality: Spectacularly and obstinately wrong on the surge; associates with Wright, Ayers, Rezko,Pfleger; his position on withdrawal from Iraq would’ve resulted in chaos, defeat and a resurgent al Qaeda.
- Claim: Post-partisan, non-ideological moderate. He bridges the partisan divide; not a knee-jerk ideologue like Bush/Cheney/McCain; thinks through issues; appreciates nuance.
Reality: Most liberal member of the senate; doctrinaire Democrat who rarely crosses the aisle; has perfected the technique of claiming to “listen” to the other side while almost invariably ending up on liberal/ Democrat side.
- Claim: Nice guy. Obama’s an ordinary, reasonable Joe with Midwestern–”Kansas”–values.
Reality: Voted against the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act and issued four false explanations regarding same; calls those who point out the truth liars; repeatedly implies opponents or critics are racists; condescends to rural, blue collar Americans.
The Born-Alive vote and Obama’s mendacity regarding the vote are, perhaps, the most devastating blows to the narrative. Obama hasn’t been able to explain the vote because it’s inexplicable. With the narrative extinguished, the war being won and Bush/Cheney leaving office, what’s left of the Obama appeal?