So it’s a week since Sarah Palin tried to equate Barack Obama with terrorism, thus signalling that “the gloves have come off”, otherwise known as “the Republicans can’t win on issues, so they’re going to try irrelevant smearing”. So far it seems to have had little impact on the polls, although Obama’s lead in the Gallup Daily Tracker has softened a bit in recent days so let’s not get too complacent. So what’s different this time around (as opposed to 2004 and before)?

Firstly, I think the blogosphere has had an impact. Many bloggers, from yours truly to Bobby Kennedy Jr (if you’ll pardon the self-indulgent claims) have picked up on the hypocrisy of Palin questioning the patriotism Obama by accusing him of “palling around” with William Ayers, when she herself has a much deeper relationship with the secessionists of the Alaska Independence Party. As the mainstream media has, to a large extent, reneged on their responsibility to aggressively and quickly question these statements, those on the internet can catch these smears before they can grow legs and run.

Next, Obama’s response so far has been appropriate. He pre-empts and emphasises the personal nature of these attacks by saying that he can take them but that the issues of the election are more important instead of going on the defensive. If he keeps this up he may actually to keep his campaign reasonably clean, even though there is plenty of ammunition on McCain and Pali, with which to go negative.

Also, I think the smears from McCain and Palin have, so far, been kind of weak compared to what the likes of Karl Rove in the earlier years of the century and Lee Atwater in the 80s threw at their opponents. They have also been very clumsy and so blatantly rabble-rousing that their rabble have been roused into outrageous actions at recent McCain and Palin rallies, thus causing such a backlash that McCain has been forced to, temporarily at least, put a few fingers back in those gloves, thus costing his campaign precious time.

Finally, and possibly most importantly, perhaps the American people, particularly the Susceptible Centre I mentioned previously, have finally grown tired of being bullied and scared into making electoral decisions that go against their best interests. 

There’s still three weeks left to the election so it’s still too early to start acclaiming Obama president, but he has so far successfully survived the new attacks from McCain and Palin. If he has a good debate on Wednesday, he may be able to gain a lead big enough to protect himself from further smears until his 30-minute spot airs at the end of October and then hopefully, this will see him through to polling day.

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