Politico

By MARK PENN
Published August 11, 2008

Clever negative advertising works. That is reality.

The tactic meets with media and pundit disapproval and spawns accusations of negativity, but the reality is that a clever negative ad can be devastatingly effective.

The 2008 presidential race is shaping up to be a close battle, and the tighter it is, the more the advertising will be ratcheted up, by both of the campaigns and the myriad independent groups sure to emerge.

Of course, voters publicly condemn negative advertising and suggest they would never be swayed by it. That was my experience in focus groups more than a decade ago, which found negative advertising to backfire. But Republican consultants such as the late Lee Atwater have used these tactics successfully in campaign after campaign. When reality and research differ, it is the research that is wrong.

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