early and often

Every Presidential Campaign Is the Meanest, Nastiest, Dirtiest Ever

Meanies. Photo: Getty Images

The campaign has already set records for nastiness and negativity,” retiring Senator Joe Lieberman declared on CNN recently. We are experiencing “the nastiest, most abrasive and personally accusatory presidential campaign in modern times,” Howard Fineman concurred on the Huffington Post. A few days later, Fox News’s Eric Bolling accused President Obama of waging “the dirtiest presidential campaign ever.”

While the negativity of theongoing  presidential race has, indeed, seemed overwhelming at times, a little historical perspective is in order. We don’t know which presidential campaign was truly the meanest, nastiest one ever, but we do know that, for the past few decades at least, every presidential race has been labeled as such. Herewith, a sampling of hyperbole dating back to 1988.


Cindy McCain lashed out at Barack Obama Tuesday, telling a Tennessee newspaper the Illinois senator has waged the ‘dirtiest campaign in American history.’” — CNN.com

“Continued thrust and parry between Barack Obama and John McCain has led many to label the 2008 presidential campaign the most negative campaign in the modern era.” — Politico

“Those who study political ads say this year’s presidential campaign could rank with the most negative ever.” — Washington Times


It’s been among the most negative presidential campaigns in history.” — St. Petersburg Times

‘This has been about the nastiest (presidential) campaign I’ve ever seen,’ says CBS News veteran Don Hewitt.” — Backstage

This presidential campaign is close to being the most negative on record.” — Christian Science Monitor

“President George W. Bush pledged to ‘reach out to the whole nation’ yesterday after accepting a concession call from Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts that put an end to one of the nastiest presidential campaigns in memory.”Boston Globe

“This campaign does not appear to have done much to burnish Americans’ view of the way the country picks its president: Fifty-one percent described it as the most negative presidential campaign in their memory.” — Salt Lake Tribune


“The Bush campaign responded by saying that Gore is running the most negative presidential campaign in history, even as Bush aides took potshots of their own.” — Baltimore Sun

George W. Bush has issued one of the most negative presidential campaigns really in the history of American politics.”DNC chair Joe Andrew, on CNN

People know this is going to be the most negative campaign in American history.” — Haley Barbour, on CNN

The political campaign that climaxed Nov. 7 was one of the scruffiest, nastiest, silliest and most devoid of responsible content in recent memory.” — Seattle Post-Intelligencer


“The eruption of personal attacks offered a clear signal to voters that the coming presidential campaign may turn out to be one of the nastiest and most negative in history.” — Miami Herald.

“‘It’s going to be the nastiest presidential campaign ever,’ predicts Larry Sabato.”Newsweek

“The incident is further proof that the forthcoming presidential campaign could be the dirtiest yet.” — The Independent (U.K.)

I’ve maintained that this campaign is going to be one of the nastiest, bare knuckled, direct, to the gut campaigns in America’s political history.” — CNN’s Bernard Shaw


“The 59-year-old former Air Force fighter pilot has become a controversial combatant in the nastiest presidential campaign in recent history.”Los Angeles Times

“’This has been the worst political year I’ve ever seen,’ Mr Bush complained in New Orleans on Thursday, ‘The ugliest, the nastiest, everything goes, no accountability.’”The Independent (U.K.)

“Bush’s broadside and Clinton’s quick response illustrated the potential explosiveness of the tax issue - and also underscored that the presidential race appears to be turning into the nastiest in recent history.” — Boston Herald

“This promises to be one of the meanest presidential campaigns in recent memory.” — San Diego Union-Tribune

“Roger Ailes, who was in charge of President Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign advertising, has said this will be the nastiest race in presidential history.” — Advertising Age.


One of the most accepted reasons for the loss was the withering personal and political attacks that Bush launched against Dukakis, causing some political analysts to call the 1988 campaign the most negative, issueless presidential campaign in US history.” — Boston Globe

“Bush offered no clues about Cabinet contenders in his victory declaration Tuesday night, but he sought to soothe the national political wounds caused by one of the most negative presidential campaigns in recent history.” — Associated Press

“By all indications, the nastiest Presidential race in memory will leave in its wake a problematic residue for whoever wins.” New York Times

Mr. Bush, who challenged Mr. Dukakis’s patriotism and accused him of being soft on crime, was judged the major transgressor in the dirtiest
presidential campaign since 1888.” — The Globe and Mail (Canada)

Every Presidential Campaign Is the Nastiest Ever