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Did candidates really run 'dirtiest campaigns ever?'

Did candidates really run 'dirtiest campaigns ever?'

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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If you ask certain people, you might think both president-elect Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain ran the dirtiest campaigns the country has ever seen. But were they truly so, or are voters just overprotective of their candidates?

We've heard plenty of claims of nasty campaigning from both sides. An ad for Barack Obama said John McCain ran "the sleaziest ads ever," while Cindy McCain was once quoted as saying the Obama camp ran "the dirtiest campaign in American history." Political pundits seem to agree both campaigns went negative, but were they the "worst ever?"

Probably not.

BYU political science professor Kelly Patterson said, "There have been some very low campaigns in the 1800's and 1900's."

Imagine if a candidate attacked the marital status of his opponent's wife. Patterson says that happened in 1828 between Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams.

"The surrogates of John Quincy Adams felt no need to hold back in criticizing the nature of that relationship," Patterson said.

Some people say those charges led to the heart attack and death of Andrew Jackson's wife. Patterson also says there were many unfair things said about Abraham Lincoln's intelligence. He was even labeled in the press as a baboon.

While some political science professors say these may not have been the "dirtiest" campaigns ever, others say they may have used more misleading charges than ever.

Westminster College political science professor Chuck Tripp said, "I've actually discovered 26 charges made by the McCain campaign against the Obama campaign, and 18 made by the Obama campaign against the McCain campaign."

Tripp says some of these charges include the McCain campaign claiming the "lipstick on a pig" remark from Barack Obama was a slam on Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, which it wasn't. Also, the Obama camp ran an ad saying McCain is against stem cell research, which McCain denies.

You know who really went negative? University of Utah political science professor Tim Chambless says it wasn't the two main candidates.

"It's some of the supporters whose names do not appear on the ballot who will do things and say things that most voters would consider to be unacceptable," he said.

For instance, someone shouted "terrorist" at a McCain rally when he asked, "Who is the real Barack Obama?" Also, someone at an Obama rally wore a shirt saying Sarah Palin is a [expletive].

Still, Chambless says there's a bright side to this year's negative campaigning. "We're better as a nation because we've undergone this national dialogue," he said.

Chambless says we, as a nation, were able to talk about our differences in race, gender bias, religion and age discrimination.


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Paul Nelson


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