Mudslingers: The Top 25 Negative Political Campaigns of All Time : Countdown from No. 25 To No. 1

By Kerwin C. Swint | Go to book overview

25
FROM VIETNAM TO IRAQ

George W. Bush v. John Kerry, President, 2004

I can't believe I'm losing to this idiot.1

—John Kerry

Yes, the 2004 presidential election between George W. Bush and John Kerry was negative. Very negative. Intensely negative. But so are most, if not all, presidential elections in the modern era, you might say. That might be true, but this one was special.

Most observers agree: the negativity and mudslinging in 2004 were very bad—historically bad. Political scientist Kathleen Hall-Jamieson said it was "as dirty as I can remember." The 2004 campaign set a new modern standard for hostility and campaign warfare.

As Los Angeles Times reporter Janet Hook reports, "It has evolved into one of the most relentlessly negative political campaigns in memory, as attacks on a candidate's character, patriotism, and fitness for office, which once seemed out of bounds, have become routine. More ads than ever focused on discrediting an opponent rather than promoting a candidate, and independent political analysts warned the presidential campaign was breaking new ground in a candidate's willingness to bend the truth."2

So, what set this one apart from the 1992 election between Bush's father and Bill Clinton, or the 2000 race between George W. and Al Gore? Unlike 2004, for much of the 1992 election year, George H. W. Bush and his campaign ignored Clinton. The Bush team started its reelection campaign very late, preferring to focus on the presidents duties, much like Jimmy Carter

-1-

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