McCain’s attempt to brand Obama doesn’t need to make sense, it just needs to be repeated. Check out this video via Andrew Sullivan:
there’s a point at about 2:30, when a woman talks about Obama and Bill Ayers. She clearly knows nothing about it, and reverts to simple telegraphic speech to make her point “Obama. Ayers. Connection. What else do you need to know?”
This is the type of simple-associative connections at the core of Republican campaign strategy, as explained by George Lakoff. They’ll set up a frame where ‘Obama’ ‘Ayers’ and ‘Terrorist’ are powerfully linked, along with several other word-images (probably something about ‘bin Laden’ and ‘evil’) that activate each other in a network of ideas. Once the frame is set up, even attempts to refute the claim using the same words will reinforce the associations. That’s why folks will believe some of this crap, without being able to tell you anything about what it means, or why it’s true.