Vadimus: “We’re Going To ‘Willie Horton’ Obama”


“We’re Going To ‘Willie Horton’ Obama”

I couldn’t believe my ears.

First, on Sunday, a McCain campaign spokesman told reporters that if they didn’t “turn the page on the economy, we lose.” Now, my source at McCain headquarters is laying out Straight Talkin’ John’s hideous strategy for the last 28 days of the campaign.

“We’re going to ‘Willie Horton’ Obama,” he told me early this morning by phone. “It could work.”

For those too young or too old to remember the Michael Dukakis-George H. W. Bush campaign in 1988, the Democrat emerged from his convention with a 17% Gallup Poll lead. Perhaps the main reason his lead dissipated was an outrageous TV ad linking Governor Dukakis to a prisoner who committed rape during a weekend furlough. The commercial included an ominous photo of Willie Horton, an African-American convict.

“Wait,” I reply. “What happened to all of those statements by McCain preserved on YouTube of McCain insisting he would only run a clean campaign? No negative ads. No ‘Willie Horton’ smears?” Even McCain’s wife Cindy is captured telling a TV interviewer that their side won’t use negative ads or attacks.

There is a long pause on the line.

“John said that before (Steve) Schmidt grabbed running the campaign away from Rick Davis,” comes what I realize is a self-evident answer. Schmidt, a Karl Rove protégé and veteran of Bush 43’s 2004 campaign, took over as McCain’s campaign director in July at the insistence of GOP heavyweights. 

“Schmidt had Palin test drive the line this weekend and overnight internals showed it went over big with the base,” is the explanation. “The question is will it have the same impact on independents and undecideds?”


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