Don't let them fool you—people love negative campaigns. In survey after survey, registered voters say they don't like the negativity and the mudslinging in politics. But if that is true, then why is there so much mudslinging in campaigns? One reason is that the consultants who run most campaigns these days insist that they work. Maybe they are right; people love soap operas and they love gossip—and political campaigns have plenty of both.
There is another reason negative campaigns may be effective—people remember them. In this regard, this book is a sort of "greatest hits" compilation. There have been some very effective, very memorable, and very nasty political campaigns in the last couple hundred years, and the "top 25" are chronicled here.
This book covers more than two hundred years of American politics, beginning in 1800 with the bitter feud between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, and ending with the 2004 blowout between George W. Bush and John Kerry. In between, there are rascals, patriots, robber barons, soldiers, and TV stars. And that's just among the presidential candidates.
The list of the most negative campaigns of all time also includes U.S. congressional races, races for governor, and even some for mayor. It was very difficult to choose just twenty-five campaigns because when looking at the vast landscape of American political history, there is a lot of material to choose from. It might be tempting to focus only on presidential races because they are the best known, and certainly they are usually extremely nasty affairs. But there are some, actually quite a few, campaigns below the level of president that deserved to make the list.
After all, was the 1984 race between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale particularly dirty, or was the 1996 campaign between Bill Clinton and Bob