By Daniel Larison
Patrick Appel asks a good question about who will benefit from invoking race in the election, and as I said yesterday I tend to agree that this may cause a different reaction in the general electorate:
This line of attack on Obama's opponents is not a new one, but the Obama campaign may be making a serious mistake in assuming that this attack will work as well in the general election as it did in the Democratic primary.
As a matter of how the media will treat the two candidates, however, I still think the politicization of race in the presidential contest almost certainly will fit into the already well-established narrative that has been in place since the earliest Democratic primaries. According to that narrative, the Republicans are inevitably going to engage in race-baiting, and any negative ad or line of criticism that can be interpreted to support that will be given much more attention than would otherwise be the case. That said, in a close election in an otherwise very pro-Democratic year, I can think of definite ways that this could still work to McCain's disadvantage in the general election, since the perception that McCain was employing racist tropes in his campaign could drive up turnout and fundraising for Obama and it could eat away at his strangely enduring reputation as a moderate. If Republicans engage in so-called "ricochet pandering," by appealing to minorities in order to reassure white swing voters, a consistent portrayal of the McCain campaign as one that exploits racism will have the same ricochet effect and drive away swing voters in crucial states. This is more or less in line with what Chuck Todd said.
Cross-posted at Eunomia