Political smear campaigns, then and now

Aug 11, 2012

Mitt Romney Campaigns In Des Moines

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign event at Central Campus High School on August 8, 2012 in Des Moines, Iowa. Mitt Romney is campaigning in Iowa before traveling to New Jersey and New York for fundraising events. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

As election day inches closer, the messaging from both sides of the political spectrum gets more and more vicious.

A new Web ad is now circulating that implies that Mitt Romney is responsible for the death of a woman whose husband lost his job in a Bain Capital takeover:

The “Romney-killed-my-wife” ad was produced by the super PAC Priorities USA Action and implies Joe Soptic’s layoff had a cascading affect that ultimately led to his wife losing her battle with cancer when he lost his work health insurance. However, CNN reports that Soptic’s wife was diagnosed with cancer several years after the layoff.

These kinds of smear campaigns aren’t new in the fierce presidential campaign arena. Mostly recently, we’ve seen Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accuse Romney of not paying taxes for 10 years, a claim that cannot be confirmed, but has kept the conversation focused on the presumptive GOP candidate’s refusal to release his tax returns. And President Obama still deals with accusations that he wasn’t born in the United States.

Other famous examples of presidential campaign attacks include a whisper, push-polling campaign suggesting that John McCain fathered an illegitimate black child and the Swift Boat campaign against candidate John Kerry that questioned details of his military service record.

Weigh In: How effective are these types of smear campaigns? What are some other historical examples of campaigns pulling out the dirty tricks? Do these messages ever backfire on the messengers?

Guest: David Mark, Politix Editor-in-Chief and author, “Going Dirty: The Art of Negative Campaigning”

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