Our first clue? Alan Grayson’s “Taliban Dan” ad. However, that took place in the context of an almost-unwinnable race for Grayson when he needed to find some traction against his Republican opponent, Dan Webster, and offered up an ad so despicable that MSNBC scolded him on air for it. Jack Conway’s Aqua Buddha ad comes close to the same level of desperation, indicating that Conway may be looking even worse than earlier polling indicated. But as Howard Kurtz reports from his new perch at the Daily Beast, those highly personal attacks are more the norm than the exception:
If the Republicans have their way, the election will turn on whether Democrats are the party of runaway government.
Now, with time running out, the Democratic Party is fighting back—and not just by trying to brand many GOP candidates as extremists. The new line is that they’re sleazebags.
We’re talking ugly stuff here, accusing one opponent of threatening his wife, another of indifference to employee deaths, a third of trying to evict a child.
It’s nothing new to hold off on the most vicious attacks until the last minute, as it precludes a candidate from answering them effectively. Generally that’s done more through mailers and outside groups rather than the campaigns themselves. As Howard notes, Republicans and their allies have not exactly shied away from confrontational politics themselves, especially on immigration.
However, that’s a policy dispute, not a personal attack. The theme emerging from last-minutes attacks from Democrats and their allies is that Republican candidates are corrupt because they, er, work in the private sector:
But the unmistakable theme of this eleventh-hour blitz by Democratic Party committees is that the Republican contenders are unethical and untrustworthy business types. While President Obama accuses the opposition of wanting to lurch backwards to the Bush years, Democratic strategists—those in the trenches—are playing a rougher game.
“The party is doing stuff that is too hot for candidates,” says Evan Tracey, who tracks television advertising as president of the nonpartisan Campaign Media Analysis Group. “You see ad after ad going at them right between the eyes. It’s personal, it’s cutting. It’s ‘here’s what we found in the oppo dump and we’re going to put it in the worst light possible.’”
So much for arguing that Democrats are not anti-business. The backfire potential on this could be huge, as voters coming to the polls this cycle are doing so because they dislike the expansion of the public sector. This seems like a combination of tone-deafness and doubling down that, frankly, explains why the Democrats are poised on the brink of a historic political collapse. Not only are Democrats anti-business, they fight dirty and they don’t listen.
As in dating, desperation is not an aphrodisiac in politics.