I was listening to this week’s edition of Podcasting Liberally yesterday while writing up the blurb, and one particular point just sticks in my mind.
The Reichert campaign finally went on the air this week, and they immediately came out negative against Darcy Burner, following the lead of the NRCC attack ads that had already been running. Joel Connelly pointed out that it could be a self-defeating strategy for an incumbent like Reichert, with such a huge name ID advantage, to be out there pushing Burner’s name and face before voters. And as is Joel’s wont, he made his point by recounting an anecdote from WA political lore.
Then state senator Jack Metcalf was running against the legendary Sen. Warren Magnuson, adopting the campaign theme: “Wrong Again Maggie.” When asked to comment on Metcalf’s relentlessly negative campaign, Sen. Magnuson reportedly quipped: “Well, if this fellow wants to spend his money producing TV commercials using my name, I’m not going to stop him.”
No doubt, negative advertising generally works. Else candidates wouldn’t use it. But you’ve got to wonder about a campaign strategy that focuses almost exclusively on driving up the negatives of an opponent whose biggest weakness is her relative lack of name recognition.
You also have to wonder about the decision to focus on taxes as their main line of attack. Republicans always accuse their opponents of wanting to raise taxes — in their lingo, that’s part of the definition of being a Democrat. So while I understand that he wants to use his cash-on-hand advantage to define his opponent, I’m not so sure that defining her as a Democrat is gonna hurt Burner all that much in a district where polls show that voters are much more concerned about ballooning federal deficits than high taxes, and where President Bush’s approval ratings threaten to plunge below thirty percent.
The fact is, voters in the 8th CD are very fortunate to have a distinct choice in November’s election. If you want to stay the course in Iraq, and you want a congressman who will vote 90 percent of the time with President Bush and the Republican leadership, then cast your ballot for Reichert. But if you oppose a permanent occupation of Iraq, if you want new leadership, and you think our nation needs to take a new direction both at home and abroad, then cast your ballot for Darcy Burner.
The Reichert folks chafe at the description of their candidate as rubber-stamp Republican, not because it isn’t basically true, but because it’s not a popular thing to be in the current political climate. But by using the same tired old themes in attempting to define Burner as a “tax-and-spend” Democrat, they end up, by comparison, defining Reichert as an establishment Republican.
And in this district, in this race, in this year… I’d rather be an ass than an elephant.