President Obama invoked the founding generation of American politicians to defend his negative campaigning before predicting that he will get the economy “going full guns.”
“And this phase of the campaign I think you’re seeing a lot of negative ads and a lot of contrast ads — although when people start saying how terrible it is,” Obama said during a fundraiser at the NoMad Hotel in New York City, “I just have to remind them [to] take a look at what Jefferson and Adams had to say about each other, and democracy has always been pretty rough and pretty messy.” (“Contrast ad” is the Obama campaign’s preferred term for their hits on Romney).
Obama remembers the roots of negative campaigning correctly. The 1800 presidential campaign saw Jefferson’s team said John Adams had a “hideous hermaphroditical character,” while the Adams faction called “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.” And Americans who do claim to dislike negative ads should recognize that campaigns only run them because voters find them persuasive.
Nevertheless, this historical perspective from Obama is a far cry from his promise not to run negative campaign ads in 2008. “Do we want to have the same old attack politics that we’ve become accustomed to?” Obama asked in 2008, as Buzzfeed recalled today. “This is a different time. This is an extraordinary time. So we’re not going to run around doing negative ads. We’re going to keep it positive.”
The president said today that his positive campaigning in the fall would explain how he’ll get the economy “going full guns” in his second term.
“There is going to be . . . the need for voters in these swing states to know not just what they’re voting against but also what they’re voting for,” he said. “And so we’ll be spending a lot of time talking about the specific agenda that I intend to pursue in the second term — which I think will make sure that this economy is going full guns.”
Obama seemed confident that the negative ads have worked, though. “So [the] upshot is if the election were held today, I think it would be close but I think we’d win,” he said.