The More You Hate Negative Campaign Ads, The More They Work
U.S. politics has never been kind and genteel. Anyone who believes otherwise is wrong. It's always been a game ruled by its dirtiest players.
Roger Stone is an alternative historian who was one the legendary American Republican political consultant who has played a key role in the election of Republican presidents from Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan to George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. Stone also served as an assistant to Senator Bob Dole. Stone is the author of "The Man Who Killed Kennedy — the Case Against LBJ" (Skyhorse). Stone is also the author of Nixon's Secrets, a broader look at the rise and fall and rise and fall and final comeback of Richard Milhouse Nixon.
Stone has also chronicled men's fashion for the New York Times and the Daily Caller. His annual "Ten Best and Worst Dressed" list has been featured on the Huffington Post and the New York Post since 2009. Stone serves as Men's Style Correspondent for the Daily Caller.
A Goldwater zealot in grade-school after a neighbor gave him Barry Goldwater's Conscience of a Conservative, Stone was elected Young Republican National Chairman in 1977. Stone was appointed Chairman of Youth for Nixon for Connecticut by Gov. John Davis Lodge who would become Stone's mentor. Stone was the youngest member of the staff in President Richard Nixon's re-election camping in 1972, the notorious CREEP — Committee for the Re-Election of the President. At CREEP Stone would fall under the tutelage of the legendary Murray Chotiner, Nixon's early campaign manager and the inventor of negative campaign advertising and tactics. In 1973 Stone went to work for Senator Bob Dole as a staff assistant and travel aide.
In 1976 Stone was named by Senator Paul Laxalt as National Director of Youth for Reagan, a division of Governor Ronald Reagan's 1976 Presidential campaign. In 1978, Stone co-founded the National Conservative Political Action Committee (NCPAC) where he is credited with developing the negative campaign into an art form and pioneering the modern use of negative campaign advertising which Mr. Stone calls "comparative, educational, not negative."
Starting in 1979, Stone served as Regional Political Director for Governor Reagan's 1980 campaign for President handling New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, his native State. Stone became known for his expertise and strategies for motivating and winning ethnic and Catholic voters. Stone went on to serve in the same capacity in Reagan's 1984 reelection campaign adding responsibility for Pennsylvania and Ohio to the states Stone managed in 1980. He went on to serve as a Senior Consultant for California for President George H. W. Bush's campaign. Bush beat Dukakis by 1% in the Golden State.
In 2000 Stone is credited with the hard-ball tactics which resulted in closing down the Miami-Dade Presidential recount. Stone is credited in HBO's recent movie, "Recount 2000" with fomenting the so-called "Brooks Brothers Riot" in which a Republican mob swarmed the recount demanding a shutdown while thousands of Cuban-Americans marched outside the Courthouse demanding the same thing.
The New York Times and Miami Herald reported it was Mr. Stone who first tipped of the FBI to Governor Eliot Spitzer's use of prostitutes.
Stone has worked for pro-American political parties in Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean. He is consulted regularly on communications and corporate and public relations strategy by fortune 500 ECO's and pro-democracy foreign leaders.
Stone endorsed former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson for President before switching his registration from Republican to the Libertarian Party. Stone says his plans for 2016 are uncertain.
Stone has been profiled in the Weekly Standard, The New Yorker, and the Miami Herald. Mr. Stone has written for the New York Times Sunday Magazine, The New York Times Op Ed page and for Newsmax.com, Breitbart, the Huffington Post and the FOX Opinion page. He has appeared frequently on FOX News. — See more here.
Roger Stone: Politics in this country is not beanbag. It has always been rough and tumble. It’s always been a contact sport — when Abraham Lincoln was running, his opponents had handbills saying that he was a half-breed; he was a mixed race, for example. So all that’s really changed is the technology. Now we use the Internet. We use television. We use cable. In those days, we used newspapers, we used handbills. When William McKinley ran for president, his campaign manager, Mark Hannah, was the first guy to realize that he could print hundreds of thousands. if not millions of flyers and distribute them to the 50 states. Since people didn’t have reading material and the newspapers were generally passed from person to person and they moved across the country. You’d finish reading a newspaper; you wouldn’t throw it out. You’d give it to somebody else. They would read it; they would pass it to somebody else. Newspaper printed in New York would find their way all the way to California because newspapers were rare and people wanted to read them. And all the newspapers were partisan. You were either hardcore Democrat or hardcore Republican.
And if you were in either party you would print the most scurrilous, negative, vicious attacks on the other party. So it’s always been a part of our society. Now the very same voters who tell pollsters I hate negative ads; I hate the negative tone — those are the same voters who could tell you exactly what was in those ads because they’ve absorbed them. They particularly absorbed them on the basis of the high level of repetition that most professional political consultants now realize is necessary. Think of it this way. When I was growing up, there were three television networks. I grew up here in the New York area so we had ABC, NBC, and CBS. And then we had two independents — WPIX and WNEW. That was it. All the other channels on the dial were snow; they were nothing. Meaning that if it didn’t happen on one of those five channels, it didn’t happen at all. So if they declined to cover any news event, it’s as if the news event never really happened. Contrast that with today. A hundred choices on cable, dozens of — the three major networks continue. Therefore, a viewer literally has hundreds of choices when he or she sits down in front of their television set or their computer. Therefore, it takes any one political message a greater number of repetitions before people get it. The general consensus in my old business, because I worked as a political strategist and consultant for many years, is that a voter needed to see an ad 10 times before it permeated their consciousness, before they started to retain the facts. The sad truth is negative advertising — which I prefer to call comparative advertising — it works. That’s why politicians use it. And voters who tell you they’re not interested still retain the facts.
U.S. politics has never been kind and genteel. Anyone who believes otherwise is wrong. It's always been a game ruled by its most aggressive players. Roger Stone would know; he'd be the first to admit he's one of them.
The reason why this current political climate feels more brutal than ever is because political rhetoric has effectively harnessed the Internet. From newspapers to television to Twitter, politicians and their operatives are masters at innovating new ways to attack their opponents via new media. Even though most people like to look down upon negative attack ads, research suggests they work. The voters aren't interested in facts — they're interested in emotion. Campaign negativity satiates that thirst. It's what the people want.
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