The tone has changed. That's the consensus about President Barack Obama's reelection effort, and it is most certainly true on YouTube, where the number of negative videos have significantly increased compared to four years ago—nearly doubled, in fact.
The videos defined as “negative” include any clip with a swipe at Republicans, their policies, or their candidates. In some cases, it might only be a quick comment in a longer video, such as this clip of Joe Biden talking about registering to vote. Videos of entire speeches were not included in the count, but short clips of those speeches, edited down to just a criticism of an opponent, were. The clips that were reviewed were from Aug. 1 to Aug. 26 of 2008 and 2012, and represent a similar period of the election: The primaries are over, and both parties are getting ready for their conventions. The selection of dates in 2008 did include the first few days of the convention, which probably explains why more videos were posted. In all, about 94 videos from 2008 and 64 videos from 2012 were reviewed.
In August 2008, Obama wasn't running against an incumbent, but rather the past. He often reminded voters about the struggles they may have faced with a Republican in office. But, running on the message of “hope and change,” he often tried to remain positive. Of the videos posted, about 35 had some sort of negative message about Republicans and Sen. John McCain. Negative videos made up about 37 percent of what the campaign posted.
One favorite target for the Obama campaign was when McCain couldn't remember how many houses he owned. The mistake was perfect material for either a formal television ad or quick web ad.
Four tough years later, Obama is back on the campaign trail, running as an incumbent in a rough economy. Unlike in 2008, when he was able to run on the idea of changing the Washington establishment, he is the establishment. Many of his uploaded clips are about drawing stark differences between him and the Republican ticket. More often than not, that means bringing Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan down on their records.
Of the 64 videos posted by Obama this month, 40 (or about 64 percent) include negative remarks about Romney and the Republicans.
Obama's campaign showed no sign of stopping this week either. On Sunday, it launched a scathing video called “The Do-Over,” which claimed the Republicans were looking to relaunch Romney's image at this week's GOP convention. The video even took a page from the Republican's playbook by going for the action movie theme so popular with some candidates now.
But even if Obama's 2012 campaign appears to be going against some ideas he ran against four years ago, negative campaigning does work. The comments and “likes” on the now-viral “Do-Over” ad prove that. By Sunday afternoon it had received more than 1,400 thumbs up and only 117 thumbs down.
“Wow.. they need to get this on TV and Facebook.. so funny and brilliant,” wrote 86qscott.
“My whole entire family is voting for Obama. Mitt is nothing but a flip flopper,” wrote FuzzyFurbee.
Of course, the increase in negative ads from the Obama camp could also be just an effort to keep up with an increasingly negative style of politics in this country. The 2012 race is already being considered one of the nastiest in recent history, according to CNN's Jack Cafferty in May. He cited a study that said 70 percent of campaign commercials run up until then had been negative, versus just 9 percent at that point in 2008.
Image via the White House/Flickr