It looks as if Republicans are pretty certain that Barack Obama will win the Democratic nomination. For most people, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. For those who run against Republicans for president, getting slimed is the only real compliment. In the last few days, the Republican attack machine has been hot on Obama’s trail.
John McCain has attacked Obama on Iraq, and the president echoed that attack in a press conference. The Tennessee Republican party tried to portray Obama as anti-Semitic. A speaker at a McCain rally launched into a vituperative attack on Obama. We should expect a steady diet of this stuff from now until November.
My guess is that all this reflects the belief in Republican circles that after March 4, Hillary Clinton’s prospects will fade. If that is true, Obama will get a big publicity boost in early March as the apparent nominee. From the standpoint of the Republicans, the goal must be to smack him around now and try to tarnish him before that boost comes. Take him down a peg quickly, make him rebut rumor after rumor, and try to get the mainstream press to ask questions like “Is Obama patriotric enough?” For now, they can piggyback on the Clinton campaign’s last ditch attempt to derail the Obama Express by spreading their own stuff about him.
McCain may be adopting the strategy that the Bush campaign used against him in the 2000 South Carolina primary. Republicans say really nasty things about Obama, and McCain “rejects” and “denounces” them, while somehow being unable to stop them. Recall that in 2000, George W. Bush kept praising McCain publicly while his minions spread the rumor that his adopted child was black and that McCain was mentally damaged by his Vietnam captivity. Bush stayed above the battle.
Now we’ll see how Obama handles the incoming.