It's one of the hallmarks of recent promising Republican campaigns to take an Obamaesque approach to attacking opponents. "No-drama" Obama always got his licks in, but rarely sounded unpleasant doing it. On the campaign trail and in office, he's had no problem with any number of surrogates making some pretty nasty attacks for him, but the key was to always allow him to come out looking so very above-the-fray. His success was a function of his own rhetorical skill and, perhaps, a luxury of having the strong wind of the national mood at his back.
It worked for the most part, but now that the national mood has turned against Obama and his Democratic allies, winning Obama-style has become a thing of the past for Democrats, judging by last year's governor's races and the Massachusetts special election.
In Virginia, it was Bob McDonnell who took the high road. You'd be hard-pressed to find a Virginian voter who could even remember a positive ad from the Creigh Deeds campaign, and one paper accused Deeds of making "McDonnell's thesis the main talking point of his campaign, almost to the exclusion of anything else." McDonnell's response was to talk about jobs, and when he did respond, to let his daughter narrate a low-key ad highlighting her service in Iraq to counteract the Deeds campaign's accusation that he had retrograde views about women working.
In New Jersey, where things were inevitable dirtier, Corzine took the cake (no pun intended) with a notorious ad ridiculing Chris Christie for his weight.
Now in Massachusetts, it is Martha Coakley who's using red fonts and foreboding music, while Scott Brown responds from his warmly lit kitchen, accusing her of doing things the "old way."
Here is Coakley's first negative ad, unveiled after the final debate last night. The Boston Globe notes: "To the long list of oddities in the special US Senate race, add this: The first negative ad of the general election campaign has just gone up, and it's from the front-runner's campaign."
Update: Coakley's team removed her ad presumably because of a spelling mistake in it. I'm adding another version of it, saved before removal, and National Review posits it could have been taken down for other reasons.
The Scott Brown camp released a statement and a response ad, which appeals directly to Independents:
"Instead of discussing issues like health care and jobs, Martha Coakley decided the best way to stop me is to tear me down," he said. "But the old way of doing things won't work anymore. Her attack ads are wrong and go too far. Massachusetts voters are paying attention to this election and they deserve better than tired, old gutter politics."
I, for one, am not someone who wants to make negative ads the pariahs of the political game. Obama can talk about a "new way" all he wants, but in the end, he needed to "draw contrasts," as they say, between himself and John McCain to win. John McCain had the right to point out exactly what was iffy about Barack Obama (and, could have been more forceful about it, frankly).
But it's interesting to see Republicans take an Obama model and use it to their advantage. Scott Brown isn't the front-runner, but this ad makes him look like he is, and is much more appealing to the Independents he needs than a Coakley bashing ad of doom (which has its place, don't get me wrong). In 2008, Independents acted like Democrats, and Republicans compunded the problem by being very bad at talking to them. In 2010, things will look very different.
Update: Meanwhile, the DSCC is having to spend money to defend the seat vacated by a Kennedy. Who woulda thunk it?
The DSCC will launch ads on behalf of AG Martha Coakley (D) as she battles to preserve Dems' 60-seat majority in the Senate.
The DSCC has purchased $567K in ads in the Boston and Springfield markets, a source tells Hotline OnCall.
The move is the most overt DC Dems have made so far in shoring up their candidate in the race against state Sen. Scott Brown (R), demonstrating the party's worry that Brown is gaining ground ahead of next Tuesday's election.