Scuttling the Swift Boat
According to an article in yesterday’s Washington Post, both John McCain and Barack Obama are calling on their donors to refrain from making contributions to any of the so-called 527 independent advocacy groups. Their premise is that a lack of funds for these groups would mean decreased 527 activity in the general election, which would in turn allow each campaign to better control the tone, content and timing of its message. With the verb to swiftboat now firmly entrenched in the political vernacular, however, don’t get your hopes up that these independent groups will be any less active than they were in 2004. While the Post article correctly notes that the 527s are fairly quiet at the moment, my guess is that there will be plenty of cash available for them to work their mischief on both sides of the partisan divide, once we get into the heat of the general election battle.
It may be true that the McCain and Obama campaigns deplore the work of these groups, or that they would at least like to establish plausible deniability early on, in case they eventually reap political gain from any effective independent attacks. But their sentiments should not be taken as an indication that the campaigns won't run their own negative ads against each other this fall. While they will no doubt denounce anything from the independent groups that is deemed especially scurrilous, I would bet that there will also be plenty of campaign-sanctioned nastiness to go around.

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