I have a prediction that is not going out on a limb much. If Bush does win reelection, the standard storyline in the MSM will be that he won because of the dirty ads by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The media wise men will point out that both Bushes won by dirty ads from outside groups. And just like the Willie Horton ad, the story of the ad will be totally changed. The truth of the ad will become irrelevant. It will just become conventional wisdom that a dirty ad won Bush the presidency. Therefore, he doesn't have a mandate to do anything since he won due to negative campaigning.
As a sidenote, in my AP Government class, I show kids ads from 1952 to the present (courtesy of this wonderful site) and this CNN site. When I show them the Willie Horton ad, which most had never heard of, they all agree that it is a devastating ad and that it would go far in convincing them not to vote for Dukakis. I ask them if they think it's an unfair ad, and they don't think so as long as the facts are as presented. Then I ask them if they think the ad is racist, and they're just clueless. They find it really funny that people would call it a racist ad to show a black man who raped after let out on leave from prison. To them, his color was irrelevant. So, the received wisdom that this was a vicious, racist ad just doesn't apply to teenagers today. In fact, some say that calling attention to Horton's race and implying that showing his picture is racist strikes them as a racist defense as if we shouldn't see pictures of a criminal if he's black.
Perhaps, in 16 years, if I'm still teaching, I'll be showing them the SBVT ad and getting their responses.