McBUSH….Sid Blumenthal says that trying to portray John McCain as an extension of George Bush is a tactical mistake. “The public doesn’t see him that way,” he says. “That’s a hard sell.” Matt Yglesias comments:

I’ll just note that I think it would be silly to base a campaign strategy on how the public currently views John McCain (the point of the swift-boat attacks, for example, was to change perceptions of John Kerry) and then say it’s probably best to bracket the question of campaign strategy and just ask straight-up how different Bush and McCain are.

Matt then goes through the details and concludes that, in fact, Bush and McCain really are pretty similar. That’s probably more true than not, but of course Blumenthal isn’t really interested in objective fact here. He’s interested in what will sell attack-wise, and whatever else you think about Blumenthal, you have to admit that the man knows his attack politics.

I don’t know for sure whether I agree with Blumenthal on this, but I think the comparison to Kerry in 2004 might actually back him up. The point of the Swift Boat attacks wasn’t just to denigrate Kerry’s bravery or patriotism — which would have been a hard sell on its own — it was to paint him as an opportunist and a truth shader. Fair or not, those are character flaws that had already dogged Kerry for a long time and were ripe for exploitation. So the Swift Boaters weren’t really trying to change perceptions of Kerry so much as they were trying to magnify an already widespread narrative in a particularly pernicious way.

In the case of McCain, then, the question is whether painting him as McBush taps into a narrative that’s already bubbling around out there and can be turned into an effective attack with the right choice of issues and framing. I’m not sure about that. Comments?

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