In recent weeks, with increasing evidence of a sputtering economic recovery, it’s become abundantly clear that the Democrats see their path to victory in the 2012 elections in attacking and marginalizing the GOP. Because the Democrats have made their intentions abundantly clear, Republicans should have an easier time running against the president’s party.
That said, failing an effective counteroffensive, the Democrats’ attacks could work. Yet, it remains a high-risk strategy for the party currently in power. Instead of offering hope for a less-divisive, shall we say, post-partisan politics, the president and his party will attempt to label the GOP as the party
- reluctant to tax “millionaires and billionaires,” refusing to ask the superrich to pay their “fair share” of federal income taxes.
- of extremists out of step with middle American, particularly the “middle class”, and
- the party of “No,” unwilling to compromise and failing to offer a jobs plan of its own.
Republicans should be able to counter the 3rd line of attack, if the House passes a jobs bill and Republican leaders remind voters of the details of the plan–and if the Republican nominee offers a plan of his own.
Over at the Washington Examiner, Philip Klein reminds us that Democrats have tried a similar attack strategy in the past, smearing the Republican nominee in order to distract voters from an incumbent Democrat’s record. “With his ratings in the tank, President Carter [in 1980] attempted to raise fears about Ronald Reagan.” Remember, the left did not always see the Gipper as a genial conservative pragmatist, indeed, Carter’s team that year hoped the California Republican would win the GOP nomination as many thought him too much a right-winger to win a general election.
The attacks on Reagan were actually effective in keeping the race competitive until the very end – and that’s when the two candidates debated, and Reagan came off as reasonable, informed and likeable, which was a contrast with the way he was being portrayed. Everybody who follows politics knows about Reagan’s famous “there you go again” retort to Carter during the debate, but few remember what Reagan was responding to. As it turns out, it was a similar line of attack that we’re now seeing against Perry.
Similarly in 2012, the Democrats’ attacks could backfire if the Republican nominee can convince voters he is not the extremist of the Democratic narrative. Indeed, that contrast, between the Republicans’ actual policies and the Democrats’ over-the-top attacks could make a more conservative nominee even more electable.
Just think about it.