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The term “oppo” refers to opposition research, a crucial activity undertaken by political entities to collect information on adversaries that could be used to their advantage or to counter the opposition’s strategies.

This process involves a thorough examination of public records, legal documents, media content, and sometimes personal interviews to gather anything that could provide a tactical edge, be it a policy inconsistency, a past scandal, or a misrepresentation.

The information collected through oppo can be utilized in various campaign strategies, including advertising, debates, or engaging with the media to shape public perception.

While oppo is a standard practice and often seen as necessary for political competitiveness, it can sometimes lead to negative campaigning, which might foster a toxic political atmosphere. ”

More on “Oppo”

Short for opposition research, the underside of political campaigns that dredge up long-buried and embarrassing facts about opponents.

Sometimes unflattering information is used as a brushback pitch to keep a potential opponent out of a race. Other times, negative scoops are held back until late in a campaign when they can be deployed to maximum effect.

The full effect of a good opposition-research operation often isn’t clear until after Election Day. In the 2008 cycle, researchers for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama unearthed evidence of John Edwards’s $400 haircuts, billed at his campaign’s expense. Campaign manager David Plouffe wrote in his memoir The Audacity to Win that he supplied the tip to a reporter. The planted information reinforced the image of Edwards as a preening narcissist, and the North Carolinian was soon out of the race.

Digging up dirt and highlighting unflattering aspects of the opposition’s life have a long political history. In the 1828 presidential election, Andrew Jackson’s opponents unearthed his marriage records, seeking to imply that the hero of the Battle of New Orleans was an adulterer for marrying Rachel Robards in 1791 before she was legally divorced from her first husband. Jackson won the White House over President John Quincy Adams anyway, avenging a bitter loss four years earlier. But the opposition researchers’ work may have taken a toll: Rachel died shortly before Jackson took office—a result, he contended, of the stress of having her honor called into question.

Even Abraham Lincoln wasn’t above engaging in oppo research. In preparation for Lincoln’s 1860 presidential campaign against Stephen A. Douglas, Lincoln’s law partner, William Herndon, combed the Illinois State Library to collect “all the ammunition Mr. Lincoln saw fit to gather” against his Democratic rival.

The art of opposition research came into its own during the 1988 presidential election when Massachusetts criminal Willie Horton was turned into a household name by the campaign of Republican nominee George H. W. Bush. But the idea originated with a primary rival to eventual Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis: Senator Al Gore of Tennessee.

Opposition research used to be considered more of a “dark art” with its practitioners hiding far underground. In the early years of the twenty-first century, more campaigns than ever were admitting to, and in some cases bragging about, their opposition-research handiwork.

While journalists are usually reluctant to admit they’ve received opposition research on a politician from a rival camp, sometimes they say so openly. In September 2013, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace said on-air that he’d received opposition research from other Republicans about Senator Ted Cruz, in advance of the Texas Republican’s appearance on that show. Wallace’s admission reflected just how upset many Republi-cans were with Cruz leading a legislative charge to defund Obamacare, aka the Affordable Care Act. “This has been one of the strangest weeks I’ve ever had in Washington,” Wallace said. “As soon as we listed Ted Cruz as our featured guest this week, I got unsolicited research and questions, not from Democrats but from top Republicans, to hammer Cruz.”

From Dog Whistles, Walk-Backs, and Washington Handshakes © 2014 Chuck McCutcheon and David Mark.

Use of “Oppo” in a sentence

  • A campaign team of attack dogs spent considerable resources on oppo, aiming to unearth any discrepancies in the rival candidate’s voting record.
  • The seasoned oppo researcher was adept at navigating through a sea of public documents to find the nuggets of information that could potentially sway voter sentiment.
  • As the election neared, the release of a damning piece of oppo on Senator Johnson’s financial misdealings sent shockwaves through the electorate, significantly altering the race’s dynamics.