2012 Presidential Campaign Already in Attack Mode

Both parties are launching negative TV advertising spots.


You might think the presidential election was 11 days away, not 11 months.

The major parties and the major candidates are in attack mode in order to frame the debate and define the opposition. And the attacks are at a fever pitch, not the lower level one might expect nearly a year before the balloting.

Democrats are targeting individual GOP presidential candidates, especially front runner Mitt Romney. The Democratic National Committee's criticism of Romney has been relentless and increasingly harsh.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Mitt Romney]

In the past few days, the DNC attacked Romney for flip-flopping on a variety of issues, including health care, abortion rights and the need for a federal economic stimulus. A DNC spokesman said Romney is willing "to say or do anything to become president—including deceiving Americans on his positions on the issues and in his campaign ads." The DNC has begun running a TV commercial arguing that Romney's candidacy is "the story of two men trapped in one body." The ad is running in the swing states of New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, and in Washington, D.C.

At the same time, Republicans are attacking President Obama daily. Among the harshest criticisms have come from GOP frontrunner Romney, who portrays Obama as a colossal failure on the economy, which is the top issue for most voters.

Other anti-Obama critiques are coming from GOP candidates including Rick Perry, the governor of Texas; Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. Perry, for example, is running an ad on national cable TV in which he says, "Obama's socialist policies are bankrupting America. We must stop him now."

[Vote now: Will Obama be a one-term president?]

Romney sparked outrage among Democrats with an anti-Obama commercial running in New Hampshire, the first primary state, that says, "Greatest jobs crisis since Great Depression. Record home foreclosures. Record national debt....He promised he would fix the economy. He failed." Democrats say the ad is deceptive. Obama has worked hard to improve the economy, they argue, but Republicans in Congress have blocked some of his key initiatives.

Just as important, conservative political action committees and advocacy groups are waging a high-intensity war using TV advertising. Among the most active is Crossroads GPS, which is associated with Karl Rove, the former political architect of President George W. Bush. Crossroads officials estimate that their group has already spent $20 million this year, using ads to blast Obama and the Democrats for ruining the economy.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

Conservative groups and the GOP presidential candidates have spent more than $13 million on anti-Obama ads over the past six months alone, according to Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group, which monitors political advertising.

That's a lot of money, indicating how intensely fought the campaign will be, right through Election Day.

  • See a collection of political cartoons on the GOP hopefuls.
  • See a slide show of 10 issues driving Obama's re-election campaign.
  • See photos of 2012 GOP candidates.