Daisy and the Art of Going Nuclear

We’re excited to announce the first Delve Into ’12 election event, which will tackle the subject of negative advertising in political campaigns. Next Friday, February 24, a group of experts – including opposition researchers Michael Rejebian and Alan Huffman, Robert Mann, author of “Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds,” and the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer – will engage in a lively discussion from 12 p.m.-3p.m. at New America’s DC headquarters (1899 L Street, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20036). Check out the complete event program and RSVP here. Lunch will be provided. And we’ll serve up plenty of classic old ad videos, along with a selection from this cycle.

Of course, the subject remains exceptionally timely. In today’s POLITICO Playbook, Mike Allen reports on GOP presidential contender Rick Santorum’s new attack ad, titled “Rombo,” which hits airwaves in Michigan today. The ad, which appears below, shows a Mitt Romney doppelgänger (named Rombo, presumably) armed with a machine gun. Rombo attempts to shoot an evasive cardboard cutout of Santorum with mud.

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The blatant subject of the ad, of course, is Romney’s mudslinging campaign. “Romney and his super PAC have spent a staggering 20 million ... attacking fellow Republicans,” the narrator of the commercial informs us. “Why? Because Romney's trying to hide from his big-government Romneycare, and his support for job-killing cap-and-trade. And in the end, Mitt Romney's ugly attacks are going to backfire." Cue the gun splattering all over Rombo’s starchy white-collared shirt.

The commercial highlights an issue that’s been debated over dinner tables since Lyndon B. Johnson ran his iconic 1964 Daisy attack ad: Even though research and conventional wisdom says negative ads like Romney’s work, how much should politicians rely on denigration to elevate their own message? More broadly, are negative ads eroding our political discourse and contributing to a culture of negativism, or are they essential to enlightening and informing the electorate? Join us for the discussion next Friday.