August 20th, 2008
04:07 PM ET

Why the high road leads to the ditch

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/08/20/art.vert.mccain.obama.jpg width=292 height=320]
Barclay Palmer
AC360 Senior Producer

They both tried to take the high road…. or said they would, anyway.

John McCain once promised he wouldn’t engage in personal attacks on the campaign trail. But his attacks on Barack Obama, and not just on his policies, apparently have worked, contributing to Obama’s slip in national polls from a 9% lead to just 1% now, according to CNN’s poll of polls.

And now the Obama campaign has seen the light: not only does negative campaigning work; in presidential elections, recent history suggests it’s the way to win.

The Obama campaign has quietly launched attack ads in key local markets, while running positive ads nationally—and more visibly for the press. And after fretting among supporters that he has been too soft on McCain, Obama is now talking tougher on the stump.

We’ll look at this turn to the dark side by both candidates tonight.

We’ll also examine the McCain camp buzz about Lieberman, the Democrat. What’s that about?

And what do you think? Please let us know. Thanks.

Filed under: Barack Obama • Barclay Palmer • John McCain • Raw Politics
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. Bill

    I thought the high road led to the briar patch (the Middle East). Both candidates will continue there in the end, it seems. McCain for president and McBiden for Vice President.

    August 20, 2008 at 11:00 pm |
  2. Suzanne

    Joe Biden is an effective senator and seems to be a good man but neither him, or Kaine, or Bayh do anything for me. McCain's VP choices are pretty lame too. Why do elections start out so promising and end up so boring?

    Knoxville TN

    August 20, 2008 at 10:48 pm |
  3. Sharon

    The American People should declare this a mis-election, like a mistrial and demand a new one.

    August 20, 2008 at 9:58 pm |
  4. Annie Kate

    I've never seen an election that didn't have negative ads. I just ignore them for the main part. Obama is no different from others who run for the office no matter how well he can deliver a speech. He has no experience and it is really starting to show badly. McCain may have a temper but at least he has experience. Guess we are back to who is the best of the two evils.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    August 20, 2008 at 9:39 pm |
  5. Holli

    I have to say that I'm absolutely apalled if I understand what I'm hearing and reading. Apparently the general consensus is that Senator Obama should start playing dirty the way Senator McCain has decided to do. Obama is making every effort to take the high road. Does he always get it absolutely right? No he does not. However, he has been consistent in his efforts to focus on the issues and away from the nasty, unnecessary, sparring that Republicans readily gravitate towards. Given that he's the presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee and not Senator Clinton, I would say it worked!
    The man has class and substance but now he's told we don't really want that. We want politics as usual. How insulting to those of us with a brain.

    August 20, 2008 at 9:26 pm |
  6. JC- Los Angeles

    It should come as no surprise that politicians will do anything and everything in their power to win elections.

    Obama, a long time ago, saw that working in NYC for a corporate consulting firm was hard work; working for a law firm and trying to make partner was tiring too.

    So he joins the Chicago political machine, joins a separatist church, aligns with Tony "the money man" Rezko, sharpens his elbows and goes about keeping his Illinois opponents off ballots; a couple of new suits and ties and he's off to Washington.

    McCain took the easier path by simply marrying into money; a couple of pricey campaigns, some war-story parlance and he too was off to Washington; throw in the Keating Five and he's a natural.

    I hope they both continue to throw each other under the bus because in reality, isn't that where they should reside?

    August 20, 2008 at 6:12 pm |
  7. Pat

    Don't get too comfortable John you won't be in the easy chair for long!

    August 20, 2008 at 5:57 pm |
  8. Mike - Gorham, ME

    My friend, you just fell for the old 'pull my finger' gag.

    August 20, 2008 at 5:54 pm |
  9. sandra shuck

    So what has changed? I though Obama was the man who was going to change the political climate in Washington-hmmmm
    If it wasn't so sad it would be funny.
    McCain as always been known as a kinda hot head and able to stand his own.
    Obama presented himself as the new and improved candidate.
    I have always though Obama could not begin to keep the promise. Look at what is happening in Washington now-the majority of the American people want to drill and also work on alternative energy.
    WE cannot even get a bill to the floor. Boon Pickens is the only well known perosn (an oil man by trade) k away from supporting any party and is working on getting us some alternaive energy-I read the reason why it will take ten years- becasue it is the infracture it will take to get wind power to us and then it will be only 20%-I will take it- not complaining.
    But let's get honest here-Al Gore was in the White House 8 years, out 8 years and what concrete alternative energy is he working on getting to us. Solar, Wind, hydro have been aroung for years-it is the infracstucture-he and Pelosi use more than the average American but we cannot have it-I would feel better if Pelousi had been working on a particular energy with Al Gore to get a certain percentage to us but she and Gore have not. I am not as stupid as I look.
    Just get me some oil
    The oil loving organic gardener.
    PS Why I am not sure Pickens will get it to us is that Pickens says Congress is gointg to have to back him in getting it to us-that means fighting the environementalist that are already planning how to block it as they are already thinking he will be using too much land and it will deplace small animals. In my state we replace only 2% of our electricity-it is a start-but already there is the NIMBY to produce enought to really help us or really put a dent in oil use .

    August 20, 2008 at 5:22 pm |
  10. Lesley

    Unfortunately the American people too easily believe what they see and hear on tv. I do believe that McCain has the advantage since the cable news media that I watch gives him pass after pass and praises his every effort, while at the same time slamming Obama for every little comment and nuance. They give him free advertising by playing his negative ads (i.e., Paris Hiton, Messiah) many times. Obama gets more dissection and negative coverage by far. But since Obama has outdone McCain in the funding department ,mostly by relatively small donations from individuals, I cannot believe that all of these people will contribute to the Obama campaign and then vote for McCain. I question the accuracy and source of information in these polls. Please get out of the ditch and stop campaigning for McCain CNN! How about taking the high road yourselves.

    August 20, 2008 at 5:14 pm |
  11. Maya Lawrence

    I'm with Katrina, Polls are bull!

    It's the end of August. The Olympics are in full swing. The kids are going back to school and no one is caring about either candidate.

    Talk to us after the conventions and the speculation ends over the Veepstakes. Until then, I'm not interested...

    August 20, 2008 at 5:13 pm |
  12. Lili Abella- Packwood, Wa.

    Give me a hug before you go.

    August 20, 2008 at 5:07 pm |
  13. Stacy

    Yes, unfortunately going negative really works. I'll be interested to see how you handle this story. I really hope you don't try to create some kind of false balance because it's clear that McCain is much more guilty of taking the low road than Obama. The man has impugned Obama's patriotism every chance he's gotten, while Obama has never cast doubt on McCain's love of country. Please don't give us some kind of generic "everyone plays dirty" report. Some clearly play dirtier than others. And going by recent history, they usually have an R behind their names.

    August 20, 2008 at 5:03 pm |
  14. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    After the way Obama first 'won' elected office in Chicago, he has no right to ever complain about dirty politics. Obama has shown with his flubbed Georgia response and poor performance at Saddleback that he isn't ready for prime time. The Republicans have nominated the only one who has a chance to win in what's supposed to be a 'Democratic year'. The Democrats have nominated the only one who could lose. It's the perfect storm.

    August 20, 2008 at 4:54 pm |
  15. Wendy Ontario, Canada

    The "Straight Talk Express" is anything but. I heard McCain say today that he "never questioned Obama's patriotism" He said multiple times that "Obama would lose a war to win an election" that is clearly doing just that. McCain would rather be dishonest to win the election then ride his so called "straight talk express".

    August 20, 2008 at 4:53 pm |
  16. lampe

    Believe me, Obama knows how to play the nasty politics game with the best of them. He got his start in Chicago, home of nasty politics. If you think this is nasty just wait until after The Conventions. The527's are just waiting for their shot at Obama.

    August 20, 2008 at 4:51 pm |
  17. Katrina

    Excuse my language, but I am SICK! of these ridiculous polls that prove NOTHING! I am 36 years old – a registered voter and I always vote – and have NEVER been polled, no one I know has EVER been polled and when I read "McCain is ahead in the polls over Obama" and then learn that they only polled a thousand people, that is NOT any indication of what America is really thinking. How is that not biased? Poll ten thousand people from each State, then maybe we get a real sense of what the public is thinking! But I am furious that this is the headlines when the truth is that no one knows what folks are thinking! And by the way, no, I don't think Obama should go negative, stronger yes, but the name calling will soon flip on McCain because the truth is that everyone is sick of hearing negative – both sides, and McCain – being as old as he is, should know better! But he just follows along with what he is being told to do – but like his buddy, Bush.

    August 20, 2008 at 4:38 pm |
  18. Lorie Ann, Buellton, California

    I think the McCain and Obama camp should keep one thing in mind. Voters aren't stupid. Republicans, Democrats and Independents will vote with their own minds. Not one candidate can really sway a gut reaction each individual will come to when they cast their vote.
    So I say, let the chips fall where they may. If the candidates want to waste our time attacking each other, so be it. I'd prefer to have more forums, like last Saturdays. Ask them both the same questions and let us voters decide who spoke the right answers to us.

    Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif.

    August 20, 2008 at 4:34 pm |
  19. Vegas

    How many times did Obama play that game.... I won't go dirty... and dump all over Hillary in the process...

    He's feeling it now... his only chance is Hillary and she'd be a fool to join the Titanic...

    Obama 08... A Total Joke We Can All Believe In...

    August 20, 2008 at 4:30 pm |
  20. Cindy

    They all play dirty!! They just do it behind the scenes most of the time to keep it out of the public eye. Obama does it just as much if not more than McCain. He is just slicker at not being caught.

    I knew it was just a matter of time before they both went at it. No one has ever went through an election being all nice. And I knew they'd never do it this time even though they said that they would.

    It'll get REAL nasty before it is all said and done.


    August 20, 2008 at 4:18 pm |
  21. James

    Yes, it has been quite impressive comeback. It seems that John McCain is not as stupid and bumbling as many have said. McCain does have some imperfections, every candidate does, but he is so much better than Obama it is not even comical. Obama is nothing more than an empty suit with an ability to orate in front of an audience. As we all saw this past Saturday, McCain had no problem answering tough questions calmly and directly, contrary to Obama with his classic answer “Its above my pay grade." It's only becoming apparent that as more people discover who Obama really is, the more people are defecting off of his band wagon. As for his political views, and his ability to cross the isle, that is a joke. He is the most liberal Senator in history. No matter how many people try and link him to Bush, deep down inside everyone knows he is not GW. he is John McCain who has always done what he felt was right not what the Republican Party thought. It is obvious that these people who want to vote for Obama are out of touch themselves if they think a man with absolutely no experience can lead this country. He has been a Senator for 3 years and been running for President for two of them. Thus far, I have seen the same politics as usual from the Obama Campaign while the only "Change" that has been and will be brought about in this election cycle is the color of his skin.

    August 20, 2008 at 4:15 pm |