Oppo: The Mud Machine

In April 2011 Iowa Democratic Party executive director Norm Sterzenbach stated, “We are going to aggressively point out the true record of the Republican candidates seeking the presidential nomination as they come to Iowa.” [04/01/11 press release]  This aggressive pointing out function is an integral part of the modern campaign done by campaigns, parties and super PACs alike.  (In former times the press played a greater role in pointing out inconvenient facts).  Opposition researchers pore through old and current video, speeches, statements, voting records—seemingly anything a candidate has done since he or she was in kindergarten—looking for the unfavorable, the embarrassing, and the contradictory.  On the campaign trail, trackers tape and take notes at candidate appearances.  Facts, factoids, statements arnd remarks provide grist for attacks that are aired in press releases, conference calls, remarks by the candidate and surrogates, videos, ads and other means.  It is important that weakness and flaws of the candidates be revealed, but professionalized oppo mud machines may be taking these activities too far.  As an old saying goes, "Find the good and praise it."  For opposition research the objective is quite the opposite: "find the bad and spread it."  All that negative information circulating may be one factor contributing to a cynical electorate.