It was this week four years ago that the Republican lie machine launched the "Swift Boating" attacks against Democratic nominee John Kerry. The expected onslaught of Republican nastiness (in the form of the typical right wing smear attacks) has yet to rear its ugly head in the 2008 contest.
The Obama campaign has loudly signaled in the last two weeks that they are expecting and prepared for the usual RNC crap, and perhaps that's one reason why the 527slime mchine has not reared its ugly head just yet. Another theory behind the delayed launch of the Republican slime machine is a lack of money:
Democrats and the media have used the term so much that it's almost an article of faith. But the so-called "Republican attack machine" waiting with piles of unregulated cash to chew up Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is anything but.
Obama cited the threat of unregulated attack groups -- called "527s" because they're authorized to raise unlimited cash under that section of the Internal Revenue Service code -- to justify dropping his pledge to take public financing -- along with its spending limits -- for the general election campaign.
Yet there's no 2008 equivalent to the 2004 Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which spent $22 million attacking Democrat John Kerry. Prominent groups and donors that played key roles in independent conservative 527 groups four years ago say they're sitting out this election. And while they've raised more than they did at this point four years ago, the independent pro-Republican groups still lag more than $50 million behind pro-Democratic groups.
My theory is that with reduced funding they are just holding their fire until we get closer to the election and diligence needs to be maintained. The McClatchy piece linked above offers additional theories:
- Contributors are nervous about increased federal regulation.
- Those who operate such groups fear a backlash, including from their better-paying corporate clients, who may not want to be associated with such attacks.
- Few are eager to take such risks to help John McCain, who's bashed such efforts in the past and could again.
Of course, they still could jump in at any time, thanks to their ability to raise cash fast with a few huge checks.
"These groups can pop up overnight because they can take unlimited contributions from almost anybody," said Massie Ritsch, the communications director for the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that analyzes money in politics.
"Just because they're not doing anything now doesn't mean they won't jump out of the shadows."
At this stage four years ago, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth had been up and running for more than a month, ripping Kerry's Vietnam record. It started airing its big ads that August.
Another pro-Republican group, Progress for America, aired its first ad criticizing Kerry's national-security record and credentials four years ago this week, the first $1 million salvo of what would be a $35 million barrage in key states.
We know the lying slimers will surface, it's only a question of "when"...
An effort to corral money for an independent group to be run by former White House political guru Karl Rove hasn't materialized so far.
"There have been a lot of conversations trying to get this off the ground," said one Republican strategist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to talk about Rove.
Another Republican said the deal fell through when Texas oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens, who helped bankroll the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, refused to write a seven-figure check to get the group going. He, too, refused to be identified because he wasn't authorized to speak about Pickens or Rove.
"Mr. Pickens has decided that he will not support any 527s involved in the presidential race this cycle and instead will focus his energies and his funding on a major, bipartisan, energy-focused public policy initiative that will be announced soon," said Pickens' spokesman, Jay Rosser.
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