No fingerprints: How 'oppo' research is fueling conflict in 2016 campaign
WASHINGTON — Minutes after Marco Rubio was pressed Tuesday on the Today show about his poor attendance record in the Senate, a YouTube link hit reporters' in-boxes. "What a terrible answer," the email read.
The sender, who works for a rival presidential campaign, included another video of the Florida Republican vigorously declaring in April that, "If you don't want to vote on things, don't run for the Senate."
Opposition research is as old as politics, but the practice has become increasingly agile and relentless in the 2016 cycle, spurred by advances in video live-streaming and capturing software, the accessibility of public records online, the rise of social media and the news media's appetite for content and conflict.
"Campaigns aren't just competing for a 24-hour news cycle to win the day. Now they are trying to win the 30-second attention span of Twitter," said Eric Jotkoff, a veteran of Democratic politics in Florida.
For now, Republican candidates not named Donald Trump are hesitant to publicly attack each other, but don't kid yourself: Behind the scenes, they are striving to undercut rivals, mining voting and policy records, tracking every campaign appearance and interview, then shopping tidbits to reporters.
"No fingerprints," reads the standard disclaimer from one sleepless operative.
Consider it the cold war before the field narrows and combat spills into the open.
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