In these final 3 days before America elects our next President, Barack Obama is under attack from a concerted right-wing attack - but this time we have Barack Obama's firewall: an old fashioned grassroots army equipped with new media tools.
Now is the time in the GOP playbook for the late hit. True to script, the McCain-Palin, RNC, Freedom's Watch, Let Freedom Ring, GOP Trust PAC (a Dick Morris affiliate) and assorted others are spending hundreds of millions of dollars throwing everything - including an illegally leaked Homeland Security document - in the hopes that something sticks. It won't.
Why? 3 reasons:
First off, some late hits just don't work. Someone leaked George W. Bush's DUI records in the final days of 2000. Remember how the leaker mistakenly thought it would help Gore? It didn't - instead it took him off message. As recounted in my book, Campaign Boot Camp :
On the Friday morning before the 2000 election, at a time when candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush were running even in the polls, news broke about Bush's 1976 drunk-driving criminal conviction in Maine. The Bush team had a three-pronged rapid response: put Bush in front of the cameras, push back on unsavory elements of the story, and blame the leak on Gore supporters. First, Bush said: "Obviously there's a report out tonight that twenty-four years ago, I was apprehended in Kennebunkport, Maine, for a DWI. That's an accurate story. I'm not proud of that." Second, when a dispute arose as to whether or not Bush had lied to Texas reporter Wayne Slater by not revealing the DWI conviction when Slater asked if Bush had ever been arrested, Bush adviser Karen Hughes, who had been present at the interview, maintained that she had "stopped the conversation" before the issue could arise. Third, Bush supporters hit Gore, blaming him for the leak.
Not only did the Gore campaign not know of Bush's conviction (so they obviously were in no position to leak it), they found the leak to be a distraction to their candidate. The Gore campaign found out who the leaker was and told the press. "The Bush people were very good about saying this is a dirty trick (even when, as in the earlier case of the leaked Bush practice debate tapes, it was not a Gore campaign leak)," remembers Donnie Fowler who served as Gore's 2000 field director. "While Gore advisers spent precious time trying to track down the leaker, " Fowler recalls, "Bush advisers went on the attack, blaming Gore anyway, and further putting the Gore campaign back on its heels with only four days to go."
Second, some late hits can be predicted and counterpunched. After all, everyone saw how John Kerry was damaged by the al qaeda tape in the waning days of 2004 because he lacked the capacity to reach every voter inundated with these and other swiftboat attacks. This time, Barack Obama knew the late hits would come and built a firewall: an old fashioned grassroots army equipped with new media tools. These millions of volunteers can immediately take to the phones and the streets to counter any attack with the truth, equipped with a multimedia toolkit to let voters see the truth for themselves:
Attacks on taxes?
Look on the Obama website and point people to the calculator - families earning less than $250,000 will not see a tax increase.
Attacks on national security?
Check out the youtube video of Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama as the steady leader we need to unite or nation and confront security threats.
Attacks on patriotism? Check out the details on Truth Fights Back here.
Third, sometimes the hunger for positive change is too great a momentum to stop even the most negative of attacks. People have expressed over and over a desire to rise above the negativity and work for positive change. This was evident on election day 2006 when Democrats won back the Congress, and has been evident in the long lines of early voting we see on the eve of election 2008.
Rather than come up with one more dirty trick, or lower the debate in countering the attack, all would be advised to listen to what the American people are telling us and to act in these last 3 days as the best ambassadors we can be for the positive change we need.