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Campaign Politicking – 4Me and U2

Scott Bannon Posted by Scott Bannon

Is it getting better, Or do you feel the same

Republican strategy

If there’s any beacon of light for the frustrated or pessimistic among us within American politics, it might just be that the winds of change seem to be blowing with regards to how people are responding to candidates who use aggressive school-yard bully behaviors and/or negative attacks in order to pull down their opponents.

Did I disappoint you, Or leave a bad taste in your mouth

A few weeks ago I wrote about an ad Senator Santorum was running in Pennsylvania which wasn’t exactly aggressive or negative, but clearly disrespectful towards his opponent, Robert Casey Jr. That lack of respect was what I needed to even care about this particular Senate race since I’ve seen no substantial differences between the two candidates other than party affiliations to date.

At the time of that writing polls showed that the Senator had closed his opponent’s lead, which had once been double-digits, to just 6 points. Since then, the Senator’s campaign ads have become increasingly more negative and the polls this week show he’s now widened Casey’s lead to 14 points. Great job, Senator.

With 12 years in the U.S. Senate Mr. Santorum, I’d think there’d be enough in your record to fill a half dozen positive commercials showing how hard you’ve worked–or tried to work–for the people of Pennsylvania, and America. Yet, you’ve decided instead to release a half dozen negative ads about your opponent and hope that if you can make him look bad it will make you look good. That strategy seems to be going very well, for Casey.

Have you come here for forgiveness, Have you come to raise the dead

Another example of backfiring politicking is in the now heated race for Senator George Allen’s senate seat in Virginia. I also published a piece about Allen several weeks ago when he used a poor choice of words in addressing a campaign worker of his opponent’s, Jim Webb. Allen called a dark-skinned campaign worker “macaca”, and welcomed him to America before an otherwise all white crowd. The worker, S.R. Sidarth is a native Virginian.

Despite the ill-advised labeling, at the time of that writing Allen held a wide lead in the polls over Webb and I firmly believed Allen was a sure bet to hold his Senate seat; and even likely to be the front runner to receive the Republican party nomination in the 2008 Presidential race. In my own recent writing I commented that “most would agree his [Allen's] political future has a long way to go yet”.

However, Allen’s responses to the reactions of people about his “macaca” remark, other allegations of using racial slurs when referring to dark-skinned people and the revelation that his maternal grandparents were Jewish have not been well received, at times seeming close to confrontational and at the least stand-offish.

As a result, Allen’s campaign has sputtered, stalled and all but imploded, leaving the race a dead heat and too close to call today. Mark McKinnon, a strategist for President Bush described Allen’s campaign this way, “It has been one misstep and meltdown after another”. And it seems the more Allen speaks, the worse it continues to get for him.

Going into the ’06 elections Democrats needed to gain 6 seats to take control of the Senate, and the notion of retaking the Senate was really more of a fantasy than a goal. The more heated battles–and Democrat’s best bets for gaining seats–were expected to be in Missouri, Montana, Rhode Island, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

That’s only 5 of the 6 needed, with the Rhode Island and Pennsylvania seats considered the longest shots for Democrats early on. The most recent polls however, are painting a pretty picture in all 5 of these races for Democrats, and if Allen continues to be… well… George Allen–he alone could just turn the Democrat’s fantasy into a reality come November.

Considering that Republicans seem braced to lose up to 30 seats in the House this November, far more than the 15 Democrats need to gain control there, and had been hoping to just hold off enough Democratic challenges in the Senate to keep their majority there the past few weeks haven’t gone well for the Republican party at all.

One thing is for sure for Senator Allen, I no longer expect to see his name on the ’08 Presidential ticket.

Republicans did see a little hope recently in New Jersey. A race that nobody thought would become close suddenly did as Republican challenger Tom Kean Jr. pulled into a polling tie with incumbent Democratic Senator Robert Menendez. Unfortunately for Republicans this week, on the heals of the revelation that the Iraq war has resulted in a recruitment blitzkrieg for terrorist organizations around the world President Bush’s approval ratings in New Jersey have dropped to an all-time low and Kean has lost 6 points to Senator Menendez.

At state levels, Democrats also appear poised to change the balance of power and pick up a lead of between 6 and 9 state governorships over Republicans.

There is still a long way to go before the November elections. Political lifetimes really, and a lot could change. Yet, there’s no objective way to deny the apparent trend among voters coast to coast in favoring Democratic leadership for the future.

Will it make it easier on you, now You got someone to blame

I want to add a final remark about the silly tactic of late to point fingers and place blame for the September 11th attacks on President Clinton or anyone else. I’m not going to take sides or even argue the merits of this debate, but rather suggest that it’s an absolute waste of time to have right now. We’re involved in 2 major wars at the moment, neither of which are going well for us, and more importantly our brave men and women in uniform on the front lines are paying the ultimate costs for today’s policy and strategic failures.

Isn’t it a better use of our time to address what’s wrong with what we’re doing today, and find ways to tip the scales in our favor–perhaps even save some of those brave folk’s lives in the process–and let the future historians debate what led to the attacks?

Every time I see Secretary Rice spending valuable time in interviews, pointing fingers over the past instead of finding ways to secure relations with our International Neighbors and monitoring hot-spots and possible pot-holes around the world–you know, the things our Secretary of State is supposed to be doing–it makes me insane to know there are American heroes dying while she gets her pointless sound-bites in.

* Predictions and poll results come from the latest Wall Street Journal / Zogby International Battleground States Poll conducted Sept. 19th – 25th, 2006.

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