Obama in 2008: Not That Positive

| Tue May 22, 2012 6:21 PM EDT

Slate's Dave Weigel offers an important corrective for the amenesia about Obama's supposedly positive 2008 campaign:

The myth that Obama ran a Different Kind of Campaign is based on a few bold bets -- like rejecting an early summer gas tax holiday -- that paid off. But we're also talking about a campaign that completely fabricated an anti-NAFTA position, and a campaign that tipped off Ben Smith to the haircut that destroyed John Edwards.* We're talking about a campaign that outspent John McCain by as much as a 3-1 ratio in the final stretch, and devoted most of that money to negative ads. The "hope and change" campaign was the happy cover on a dogged, overwhelming attack campaign. It used to benefit Democrats to obscure this; now, it benefits Republicans.

The most memorable negative ad the Obama campaign ran was the "fundamentals" ad, which mocked Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) saying "fundamentals of our economy are strong" and was apparently cut the afternoon of the day McCain said it. There are a lot of contrasts between 2008 and 2012, but a willingness to go negative isn't one of them. Journalists hyping Obama "going negative" this time around are probably just reacting to the fact that the president faces a much closer election than he did four years ago.

Adam Serwer is filling in while Kevin is on vacation.

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