Representative Michele Bachmann has launched a new website, NoSurprises2012.com, dedicated to contrasting Bachmann’s constant stances with the flip-flops of her opponents. Actually, a couple of the clips included in her introductory web ad are more like Whiskey Tango Foxtrot moments than “flip-flops.”
Including the Herman Cain quote about China’s development of nuclear capability undercuts what Bachmann is trying to accomplish here – there are lots of Cain quotes her campaign team could have used, instead of unfairly hammering him for an arguably poor choice of words – but otherwise this is a great ad and website. No matter which candidate you dislike, there’s something for you here. Unless you dislike Michele Bachmann, of course. In that case, you’ll have to do your own YouTube muck-raking.
This project will doubtless face criticism as an explicitly vicious example of negative campaigning, from a candidate who sank very deep in the polls after a strong start. Personally, I’m a little tired of the ritual hand-wringing over negative campaigns. There’s nothing inherently unreasonable about a candidate making the case for her election by highlighting the shortcomings of her opponents. Every candidate does it, because it works. “Negative campaign” tut-tutting is intended to unilaterally disarm Republicans, because Democrat candidates can count on the media to do all their mud-slinging for them, while they polish their “high-minded positive campaign” alibis.
Bachmann’s new approach is the precise opposite of Newt Gingrich’s general refusal, beyond a few tough shots at Herman Cain’s 999 Plan, to run hard against his Republican competitors. (He recently remarked that he shared the stage with many fine “competitors,” but they all had only one “opponent,” and that’s Barack Obama.) You might respond that it’s easy for someone with as much luggage as Gingrich to speak out against political baggage inspections – and if you had that response before finishing the first sentence of this paragraph, you should contact the Bachmann campaign immediately, because they might have an opening for you at NoSurprises2012.com.
The Gingrich approach is philosophically admirable, and it’s been working for him so far. There are also strategic benefits to running a primary campaign that doesn’t damage the other potential nominees, both for the health of the Republican Party, and for the candidate’s prospects of landing on someone else’s ticket.
On the other hand… I hate to sound cynical, but the 2012 general election is undoubtedly going to be a “negative campaign,” because the Republican candidate is running against a disaster of historic proportions. The GOP electorate remembers very well how John McCain’s tightly-laced kid gloves and “Obama is a fine young man who would make a great President” debate style helped to unleash this disaster upon us. Obama’s team will deal from the bottom of the deck, with various ugly cards dripping out of their sleeves, serenely confident that the media will never call them on it. They’ve got plenty of cutouts to handle the really dirty work. It won’t be remotely high-minded or “fair,” and none of that will matter a bit, if Obama gets re-elected.
As mentioned, I could do without the low blows that twist minor mis-statements into the equivalent of Ron Paul saying he thinks it would be just peachy if Iran had nuclear weapons, but otherwise, Bachmann’s “No Surprises” campaign is useful full-contact sparring for a Republican field that must understand it’s going to take much harder shots from Obama 2012. There’s nothing on her new website that you won’t be hearing from Team Obama, including its star players at the major news networks, after the Republican primaries are over.