By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – As long as I’ve been covering politics, which feels like a hundred years at least, it’s been unchallenged conventional wisdom – to win a tough election, you have to go negative.

I don’t mean the kind of compare-and-contrast politics where you claim your opponent’s policies would bring disaster while your own will usher in an era of unprecedented prosperity. I mean the real scorched-earth stuff, where you cast your adversary as an unacceptably-extreme hatemonger bent on nothing less than the total destruction of everything we value.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

You know, like the $500 million ad bomb the Obama campaign dropped on Mitt Romney over the past six months or so.

You probably know the details; if you live in New Hampshire or some other battleground state, you’ve been swamped by them. Romney and his venture-capital firm were corporate raiders who enjoyed nothing more than firing blue-collar workers, looting their pensions, and driving them into early graves. Romney the politician was, alternately, a half-crazed ideologue bent on turning the government over to rabid Tea Partiers, or a near-psychotic panderer without a shred of principle, take your pick.

And Romney the man? A robotic weirdo with a weird background and weird religious beliefs who couldn’t possibly be trusted or liked. And by the way, did you know he hates women?

It seems that for the crucial swing voters, most of that expensive jive was washed away by the first debate, in which the Romney voters saw bore no resemblance to the attack-ad stereotype.

And that has left the president, his own personal approval damaged by handling too much of the attacking himself, stuck with an eroding position in a race where there may not be enough time left to turn things around.

No doubt, Mr. Obama has been the victim of plenty of off-the-charts negativity since he took office. But a politician who was wildly successful with a positive message of optimism and hope ran for re-election as a mudslinger, and may be on the verge of blowing it.

Negative campaigning fans, take note.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.


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