Attack Ads: How NOT to do them

Today on Facebook, I saw an interesting video being passed around by my friends who like Marco Rubio. It compares two exchanges recently, one with Marco Rubio and a child; the other with Chris Christie and a young woman. It tries to spin it as how the two candidates treat kids, but that’s where things go south really quickly. The Marco Rubio exchange is with a 9-year old, an actual child. The Chris Christie exchange is with an 18-year old woman, maybe young, but still an adult woman.

Chris Christie may not be a “Conservative”, but to be fair these two videos aren’t of two 18-year old voters pressing the candidates on issues. What’s being compared is an 18-year old pressing Christie and the end of a segment with a 9-year old talking to Rubio. The 18-year old is an adult and sarcasm is completely justifiable to an adult. It would be weird to see a Presidential Candidate sarcastically respond to a child, but to a voter trying to antagonize me? Really? This isn’t really a comparison of respect to children, or how the candidates handle weird, inaccurate, or silly questions. This is about finding a way to smear Chris Christie in a sensationalized way.
For those not aware, legally speaking, an 18-year old is an adult. Christie isn’t a great “conservative” candidate compared to Rubio, but people can do better than attacks like these. This is the equivalent of showing Chris Christie not petting a cat, and Marco Rubio petting a dog, and then stating, “Chris Christie hates pets and will euthanize every last one. If you want a candidate who loves animals, vote Marco Rubio.”
That’s just bad politics. This is not a worthwhile violation of Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment. You can criticize Chris Christie for his values, go for it. But criticize him for what he has actually done, not on what you think his character is. You aren’t the bottom ringer in the polls, don’t run a campaign like one.
See even Reagan acted out when dealing with people who were antagonizing him. This is called “The Nashua Moment” for a reason, it is seen as the reason why Reagan won in the 1980 Republican primary for President against George H.W. Bush. For Christie, the young woman was exaggerating her story and trying to make Christie look bad through her ‘question’, she wasn’t there to ask an actual question. When you deal with dumb things, you say smart things back at it.
Do I endorse Christie? I’d vote for him in a general election.
Do I like Rubio? I might vote for him in the primary.
But these are the kind of things that make me not consider him a good candidate. And these are the kinds of things that make shaky moderates go to Christie rather than Rubio. Wage wars in politics smartly, not emotionally.
You can win on positive arguments, you can win on your own merits. Yes negative attacks work, but when you fight with honor, you don’t do so naively. You can choose how and where you fight, and you can use your display of honor to rally supporters and take a victory. Fight from the moral high ground. Win through strong, consistent, truthful messaging. Humans are cynical creatures who love to learn that someone isn’t perfect and good, but I think you can as easily swing the electorate through displays of your own humanity. But don’t mind me, my Master’s Degree is in Political Warfare and Propaganda. What does a young kid like me really now?
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