Tim Fernholz:

I have been wondering recently, as Obama climbs in the polls, if the conventional wisdom after the election might be that Rove-style smear politics are less effective these days. Obviously we’ll never get rid of the grit of our political life and attack ads are here to stay, but maybe vicious attacks on patriotism and ethics will become less common.

It was weblog conventional wisdom a month or so ago that Obama had to go negative or else lose, and what was he thinking, and didn’t he know x and y and z, amid much rending of garments and gnashing of teeth.  Obama did not go negative, McCain did, and now Obama may be up by 14 points and coasting to victory.  Negative campaigning does not guarantee success – if it did, both sides would do it, and then both sides would win and the universe would explode because that’s what happens when there’s a paradox.  Negative campaigning tends to make you look like a dick, which is why campaigns tend to resort to it only when they are worried, or hopelessly fucked, like the McCain campaign.  Certain elements feel that a McCain’s problem is that he hasn’t gone negative enough, and as we don’t get to rerun elections in the lab, this, like all idle speculation, may be true.  But there isn’t any evidence for it.

McCain is a bad candidate – he’s old and angry and weird-looking and the base doesn’t trust him – running in a historically bad year for Republicans.  He has also run a horrible campaign, nominating a blithering idiot as his VP and now, remembering that Nixon won handily in 1968, running a campaign premised on the idea that the last 4 decades never happened.  I gather there is a debate tonight, and I gather McCain will whip out the unblockable 15-punch combo of linking Obama to SOHNEHO, probably while wearing a nehru jacket and Beatle boots.  Nothing will change.

… None of which has anything to do with negative messenging outside the campaign.  The Republican base wouldn’t exist without it: