That might depend on what the game is. Matt Lewis, of Townhall, thinks it's better to be an ugly winner, and is encouraging John McCain to go that route. Specifically, he's encouraging McCain to play the race card:
Yesterday's ad portrayed Obama as a "celebrity" like Britney and Paris. This is a fine opening salvo, but it will only work if it is merely one facet of a larger narrative about Obama's image. If the McCain folks are smart, they will hit him today with an ad on the Ludacris rap. Clearly, this offensive rapper casts Obama as out-of-touch with most Americans. Critics who deride the "celebrity" ad as puerile are majoring in the minors. They should realize this one ad is merely part of a larger strategy. You can't make everyone happy with every message of the day, but the larger narrative is what matters.
I agree that those who deride the celebrity ad as puerile are missing the point, as I don't think Obama (now that he has to run as himself rather than as "not Clinton," where it was easy to support him) has shown much substance or much in the way of good ideas, but rather is running as a tv-movie John Kennedy already in Camelot, with the election an afterthought desultorily covered by a media that just wants to get to the swooning. An image that Obama has encouraged, in my humble opinion.
But let's look at the specific advice this Lewis character is giving. He wants McCain to run "ugly" and he wants McCain to put the recent Ludacris song endorsing Obama (which has generated controversy because it refers to Hillary Clinton as a "bitch," an impression I must admit I share) front and center.
(I know. I know. It's Townhall, but plenty of people read it. Indeed, there's a column by jackass failed movie critic Michael Medved, on the sidebar as I write this, accusing Obama of doing what Lewis is encouraging McCain to do.)
Lewis, without coming out and saying it, wants McCain to portray Obama as a gangsta rapper. I don't know whether Ludacris is a gangsta rapper or some other kind of rapper, because I sort of dropped the music around the time of "The Black Album" and mostly listen to Italian horror film soundtracks these days, but that's how Lewis, and many more powerful right-wingers would like to see Obama portrayed.
That isn't the same as pointing out lack of experience, a biased media (a bias of which McCain was the beneficiary until recently), or lack of substance, as I believe the Paris Hilton ad does. This is Willie Horton territory, only it's even less justified, as Obama is about as far from a black street thug, or for that matter a rapper who endorses the thug life, as one gets. He's straighter than I am, and I'm as white as they get.
"Out of touch with most Americans" as Lewis puts it, means black. As though Ludacris is sitting in on campaign strategy meetings, or is going to be named head of the National Endowment for the Arts in an Obama administration.
So far McCain has refused to play the race card, because he's an honorable man who's shown he can take it without crossing the line himself. In fact Obama has been the one to play the card, however tepidly. Lewis, elsewhere in his column, analogizes elections to football, and war.
Football is a fine thing and war, when justified, is a terrible but necessary thing. But in football and war one doesn't have to live next door to the defeated, and the winner doesn't have to live on the battlefield. In politics, one does. Perhaps it is better to be a beautiful loser (and it would be the only time John McCain has been been beautiful in his political career) than an ugly winner, if ugly means crossing the line from pointing out the opponent's flaws into racism.
Against all expectations McCain is running almost even, or even depending on what you read, with Obama. Here's hoping both candidates continue to fight hard, without turning the election into football, or war.