Hard data shows what many intuitively know: Barack Obama runs many more negative ads than John McCain. The MSM can hop up and down all they like, writing slogans (“sleaziest”; “new low”) for Obama–which themselves get converted into ads–accusing McCain of going negative. But facts are stubborn things: even aside from the qualitative difference (attacking McCain’s “honor” seems more egregious than saying Obama will raise taxes), the quantity speaks for itself.
All that said, in an extremely close race it is easy to see why campaigns go negative. For starters, we know negative ads work. Also, neither of these guys is saying anything terribly impressive or specific. Unless you have pearls of wisdom to share it is easier to point out the other candidate’s inanities. And the gaffes are sometimes too tempting to ignore.
In a nutshell, the negative message from Obama is “Bush=mess=McCain.” The McCain negative is “Obama’s a non-doer/non-leader who will raise your taxes and sink us further.” Obama’s negative pitch is shorter. We’ll have to see which works better.