In the 2008 election, Senator McCain frequently criticized then-Senator Obama for his connection to, among other unsavory figures, the fiery and controversial Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Recently, a pro-Republican Super PAC announced their plan to dig up the Wright card and use it against Obama in election advertisements. However, using Wright in any way to attack Obama, or even mentioning Wright at all, would be about the most foolish thing either the Romney campaign or any of his supportive Super PACs could do.
McCain’s allies used Wright to attack Obama in 2008 instead of attacking his record because at that time Obama essentially had no record. Unfortunately, the Wright attacks came across as character assassination and only made an already extremely negative campaign even dirtier. Now, in this presidential election, Obama actually has a record to criticize, and so the last thing Romney and his allies should do is go after the President’s personal life and history. Of course, Obama will launch withering personal attacks against Romney in an attempt to cast him as an out-of-touch corporate vulture, but this will provide Romney with an excellent opportunity to take the high road and steer clear of such dirty campaigning. Back before his primary campaign sputtered and died, Newt Gingrich repeatedly tagged Obama as a “Saul Alinsky-radical”, in reference to the leftist founder of community organizing, as well as bringing up the old Bill Ayers/Weather Underground ghost. This was foolish then and it will be foolish throughout the general election; Republicans do not need to criticize Obama’s relations or influences — they need to criticize his record. Any attempt to connect Obama to outside figures will be nothing short of a distraction and will be called out as such by the public.
Virtually everyone on both the left and the right agrees that Rev. Wright said terrible things and Obama’s relationship with him, thanks to John McCain, is well-known. There is nothing new to bring up or anything worth rehashing, and for any matter the negative perception of the President’s past connection to Wright pales in comparison with his abysmal record and lack of leadership. Romney’s goal should not be to make voters dislike Obama as a person, which would be quite difficult anyway because he has developed a reputation for being likeable and personable.
Instead Romney should criticize Obama for his poor judgment on such issues as the Keystone Pipeline, healthcare reform, and the massive deficit. As the incumbent, Obama has the responsibility to run on his record, and if the Republicans can force him to stand and account for himself, his chance of winning reelection will be slim. Romney ran quite a negative primary campaign, but the general election is his chance to cast himself as a responsible and sensible conservative. This will be essential for him if he hopes to win over moderates and independents who are disgusted with the angry conservatism of the Tea Party. For this election, Republicans need to keep their message focused, keep the campaigning positive, and keep away from ineffective ad hominem attacks.