Down but not dirty

Rocket Man and I were talking the other day about the impact of the pounding President Bush has taken from the Democrats and their media echo chamber. After a while, I asked rather plaintively, “don’t you think the voters have a sense of fair play?” Byron York cites poll results suggesting that they do. According to a Gallup survey the public believes Kerry and the Democratic party have, at least so far, conducted a dirtier campaign than Bush and the Republican party.
It’s not clear how much solace Republicans should take from this poll. First, the correct answer to Gallup’s question is so obvious that the wonder is why the margin was not greater. Second, as a general matter, it’s doubtful that the number of voters who tilt towards the party that runs the cleaner campaign exceeds the number of voters who are persuaded to vote the other way through dirty campaign tactics. Nontheless, I still harbor the hope that Kerry’s portrayal of Bush is such a shrill carricature that when the public reflects on the matter his negative message will be rejected by swing voters. But even if I’m wrong about that, the poll at least suggests that when (surely not “if”) Bush fights back, Kerry will not be able to hide behind charges that Bush is “going negative.”

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