Political consultants have a way of getting carried away and saying things they quickly regret. Believe me, I’ve been there.
So it was with Dustin Ingalls, assistant director of Public Policy Polling, who told a Cumberland County Democratic group:
“We have to absolutely eviscerate McCrory….It’s going to have to be a very negative campaign.”
Just before that, McCrory’s ad man, Fred Davis, got his dose of a media spanking when his slash-and-burn memo on attacking President Obama went public.
Consultants have a stock answer when they hear complaints about negative campaigns. They shake their heads patiently and say something like: “Well, voters always say they don’t like negative ads, but they always pay attention to them.”
Which is why some consultants strive to prove they’re the toughest, meanest SOB in the political valley. Sort of like young guns out to prove they’re the fastest gun in the Old West.
Voters, of course, recognize a negative ad when they see one. Which may be why Karl Rove & Co. rejected the scorched-earth approach in their “Basketball” ad for Crossroads GPS. Rather than rip out Obama’s throat, they go for a kinder, gentler tone. They acknowledge that voters had good reason to vote for him in 2008, but they suggest that the voter is now feeling let down and disappointed.
That might strike just the right note with swing voters. And cut through the poison.
A lot of consultants can make predictable negative ads. Few can make really good negative ads. And fewer still can make the most powerful thing in politics: a great positive ad.