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Swiftboating Michael J. Fox

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Anonymous on October 29, 2006:

Were they? Is there any evidence that the post-Fox-advertisement poll jumps in favor of McCaskill were reversed by Limbaugh's accusations?

Jan Wolter on October 29, 2006:

I'm not sure where the "poll" numbers at the beginning of this article come from. Though they were reported in the papers as "polls," they sound more like the results of a test screening than actual polls. I haven't seen any specific polls tracking McCaskill's ratings through this episode.

But what really matters is election day. People will think about the pluses and minuses for McCaskill and Talent. Maybe the Fox ad will come to mind. And what will that bring to mind? McCaskill's support for a research line that might help people like Fox? Or a big foo-farah with Rush questioning Fox? For everyone who thinks of the latter instead of the former, that will be a win for the Republicans. I think a lot of people will think of the latter.

Keith Wolter on December 13, 2006:

(Hello from another Wolter in Ann Arbor!)

One point I want to make about this style of attack ad: I think it serves as a sort of personal intellectual cover, a cognitive-dissonance-enabler, if you will. In both the cases cited, it was used by Republican sympathizers to attack a value/figure they had previously supported: miltary service or Michael J. Fox. For Republican voters, the candidacy of Kerry presented a quandry: they tend to honor miltary service, and had loudly condemned Clinton for "draft dodging," and yet at a time of war were faced with hypocritically supporting a candidate with a questionable record w/ regard to military service, OR voting Democratic. Faced w/ this dilemma, I'm sure most Republicans would have voted for Bush anyway. But the emergence of the Swift Boat Veterans gave them the perfect cover! Thus dyed-in-the-wool Repubs (i.e. some of my relatives) could argue w/ a straight face that Bush's service record was actually better than Kerry's, b/c "at least he didn't lie about what he did," etc. Now I'm convinced that, in their heart of hearts, they didn't believe this, but they just needed a little push to overlook the obvious...

The MJF episode had a similar meme, in that a figure beloved by Repubs (Alex. P. Keaton!) has been co-opted to support an opponent. After all, EVERYBODY loves Michael J. Fox. Who wouldn't help Marty McFly? So, in order to make such a position more palatable, attack it for, as you pointed out, reasons tangential to the issue itself (i.e. MJF is "acting," therefore not to be trusted, etc.) This way, Repubs can say, "well of course! He is an actor, after all!" and not be forced to vote AGAINST a beloved figure. I would argue that again, most Repubs know deep down that their position is internally inconsistant. (For me, the ridiculousness of the stem cell issue is captured by the fact that there are actually millions of fertilized embryos in fertility clinics in this country that will never be given a shot at developing further.) But this charge gives them the "cover" they need to vote the way they want...

Of course, Republics have no monoply on such tactics...

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