Monday, January 23, 2012

Republicans go negative.

Watching  the Republican primary campaign, it's no longer so much about the ups and downs of the race, or the scandals and gaffes that have plagued various candidates. What changed this week is that the two perceived front-runners, Gingrich and Romney, have abandoned their previous pledges to refrain from attacking other Republican candidates. Romney used to spend his entire stump speech attacking President Obama. Gingrich spent much of his time attacking the media, while decrying any efforts to get the candidates to attack one another. Now any pretense of Republican civility is gone.

I didn't watch much of tonight's Republican debate, but what I've read so far indicates that it turned into something of a mud-slinging contest. Since South Carolina, Romney has had to stop acting like the presumptive nominee who need not return fire from his Republican opponents, and he's trading accusations with Gingrich with abandon.

Gingrich is probably hoping this is 1980 all over again, and he is the new Ronald Reagan, taking the more mainstream candidates by surprise, and getting ready to hand the incumbent another surprise in the fall. But a lot of Republicans seem afraid that it just might be 1964 all over again, and Newt is the new Barry Goldwater, about to lead his party to a defeat of epic proportions. In some ways, I wouldn't mind seeing a repeat of that triumphant year for Democrats. On balance, however, I think I'd still rather watch a more positive campaign on the issues. Unfortunately it doesn't appear that any of the Republican candidates are capable of offering the country a positive vision. It's going to be up to Democrats to remain positive this year, to continue to offer a hopeful and forward-thinking message, while resisting the temptation to which Mitt Romney is currently succumbing to get down in the mud with their political opponents.

(Photo by Emmanuel Dunand, AFP/Getty Images from LA Times)

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