Strangely enough, the 2012 presidential campaign, expected to be the dirtiest in modern memory, may end up being relatively clean. That’s because both sides agree that the economy is the central issue and that sideshows like the Reverend Jeremiah Wright aren’t persuasive for voters. Karl Rove and Larry McCarthy, the creator of the infamous Willie Horton ad, think harsh personal attacks against President Barack Obama will backfire, and they’re offering more subtle messages of economic disappointment instead. Even economic assaults can boomerang nowadays. Newark Mayor Cory Booker, an otherwise strong Obama supporter, dealt the Obama campaign a blow last weekend on NBC’s “Meet the Press” when he said he was “nauseated” by an Obama ad lambasting Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital LLC. The president’s defense of the ad, in which he said “there are folks who do good work” in private equity, was too complicated to be effective. The controversy surrounding the Bain ad and a proposed Wright ad from a super-PAC backed by Joe Ricketts, the billionaire founder of TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. (AMTD), suggests that when “paid media” in the presidential race ventures out-of- bounds, “free media” will exact a penalty. (House and Senate races are another story.)
The revelation last week that Joe Ricketts, the founder of TDAmeritrade, was considering spending $10 million on slashing personal attacks against President Barack Obama seemed the latest evidence of the flood of new money entering politics. Within hours of the New York Times’s scoop of a proposed ad, however, the lesson that emerged was a very different one: How dangerous and embarrassing it can be for corporate figures to play in partisan politics. Ricketts found himself frantically distancing himself from a proposal from adman Fred Davis while he scrambled to insulate his business interests — the brokerage he founded, a hyperlocal New York news group he owns, the Chicago Cubs — from potential fallout from livid liberal customers. It was the highest-profile of a handful of recent squalls revealing some of the natural, political limits to direct corporate influence in electoral politics. “I shall have no further comment on this or any other election year political issue,” a chastened Ricketts said in a statement Thursday.
National: Magnate Steps Into 2012 Fray on Wild Pitch – Joe Ricketts Rejects Plan to Finance Anti-Obama Ads | NYTimes.com
Joe Ricketts, an up-by-the-bootstraps billionaire whose varied holdings include a name-brand brokerage firm in Omaha, a baseball team in Chicago, herds of bison in Wyoming and a start-up news Web site in New York, wanted to be a player in the 2012 election. On Thursday he was, though not in the way he had intended. Word that Mr. Ricketts had considered bankrolling a $10 million advertising campaign linking President Obama to the incendiary race-infused statements of his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., brought waves of denunciation from Mitt Romney, the Obama campaign and much of the rest of the political world. Highlighting the perils of mixing partisan politics and corporate citizenship, the reverberations also swept through the Ricketts family’s business empire.