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Why The Ayers Gambit Won’t Work

by @ 11:42 am on October 7, 2008. Filed under 2008 Election, Barack Obama, John McCain, Politics

Rick Moran is one conservative who sees the McCain campaign’s latest talking point for what it is; a sign of desperation:

The McCain campaign is perplexed, bothered, and bewildered of late. Despite Barack Obama’s past associations with radical bombers, nauseating racial bigots, and anti-semitic Palestinians, the media doesn’t seem to want to expose the extent of those relationships nor ask tough questions as to how the views of these extremists might have shaped or impacted his own.

We can – and in many cases we should – chalk this up to a shameless bias on the part of the media toward Barack Obama and the Democrats. But something much simpler is at work, something that makes any attack on Obama by McCain using his radical associations as a backdrop to question his judgement an exercise in futility.

The voters don’t care.

America did not invent the fine old custom of tar and feathering crooked, lying, corrupt charlatans and riding them out of town on a rail (the English have been doing it for 800 years). But the mood of the American voter is so outraged at the financial crisis we are in that if I were a Congressman campaigning at home, I’d steer clear of pillow and asphalt factories for a while.

The fact is, the economy is of such overriding concern, all else in the campaign pales in comparison. The voter simply doesn’t want to hear about Ayers, Wright, Rezko or any other problematic Obama friendship. Nor, I suspect, are they keen to relive the Keating 5 fiasco or read about any other manufactured McCain association by the press.


The bottom line is that attacks on character are being ignored at the moment by the voter. All they want to hear is what each candidate will do to protect them from this financial storm that is sinking so many huge and seemingly indestructible companies. The thinking goes, “If Lehman Brothers can go under, am I next?” In a free country, people have a very proprietary sense of their own money and how safe it is.

They don’t have to be told things could get a lot worse. They sense it, as a deer might sense a wolf nearby. It can’t smell the wolf but it senses danger nevertheless. Voters may not entirely understand the ins and outs of international finance, but they sense their money, their livelihoods are in peril.Hence, all other issues of the campaign – the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran, education, abortion, gun rights – the whole mish mash of topics that have been fought over and discussed in this campaign now take a seat at the back of the bus as the voter wants his questions answered on the economy.

And that, put quite simply, is why the election is at the stage that it is today and why John Mccain will likely lose in November.

The Atlantic’s Ross Douthat agrees, and points out the important difference between William Ayers and Willie Horton:

Bill Ayers can’t win you an election – he can’t come anywhere close, in fact – because unlike Willie Horton, Bill Ayers isn’t tied to any of the issues that are uppermost in voters’ minds. He tells you something about Obama’s judgment, maybe, and his ideological biases, maybe – and yes, yes, with enough innuendo and doomy music, you can imply that he tells you something about Obama’s softness on Islamist terrorism as well. But think about the directness of the Willie Horton ad. America has a crime problem. You don’t feel safe in your own home. And Michael Dukakis want to make it worse. Think about the directness of the “white hands” ad. The economy is tanking, and the Democrats want companies to hire underqualified minorities, instead of hiring you. And then think about the implications of any Ayers ad the McCain team could cut. The stock market is tanking. The global economy is in peril. And we think the most important subject on your mind should be whether Barack Obama was too chummy with a Sixties terrorist you’ve probably never heard of.

I’m pretty sure that’s a losing message. And unless there’s some way I haven’t thought of to link the Weather Underground to the global stock market, or the subprime mess, or the cost of health care, or anything else that’s actually high on the voting public’s list of priorities, this “gloves off, dammit!” strategy will only serve to confirm the public’s perception that John McCain – and the ticket he heads, and the party he leads – are completely, utterly, and hopelessly out of touch.

And yet, they continue.

One Response to “Why The Ayers Gambit Won’t Work”

  1. [...] negative on Obama in the middle of an economic crisis isn’t going to save them (see here, here, and here), despite clear evidence that their rhetoric is appealing to people’s worst [...]

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