Politics & Other Mistakes: Goodbye normal street
The U.S. Senate campaign in Maine is about to swerve off the blacktop, crash through the puckerbrush and plunge into the swamp, dredging up a mass of slime and stinking muck.
In other words, the fun starts now.
In the primary election (which, as I write, hasn’t yet occurred), the Democrats have undoubtedly chosen a candidate dubbed the Hapless Dweeb. No money. No name recognition. No positions on issues that might tempt an unenrolled voter to cast a ballot in the Dweeb’s general direction. No chance to finish anywhere but in third place, unless one of the lesser independent candidates catches fire, in which case, fourth isn’t out of the question.
The Republicans, meanwhile, have likely decided on either the Unelectable Right-Winger or a marginally electable moderate who has disguised himself as the Unelectable Right-Winger. Lots of I’m-more-conservative-than-you rhetoric from the primary will have to be carefully massaged in a futile attempt to appeal to moderates. The GOP nominee comes with his forehead already tattooed “runner-up.”
As both major party candidates assess the damage caused by veering into the ditch, independent Angus King will be roaring down the center of the road, straddling the white lines, shooting through the yellow lights, ignoring the warning signs that say “Slow, Dysfunctional Politicians Ahead.” The former governor has the public awareness, the bank account and the telegenic personality that virtually assures his victory in November.
That leaves his opponents with just one alternative: Run high-minded, issue-oriented campaigns based on respect not only for King, but also for the voters’ intelligence.
Oops, sorry, that’s not the alternative. No Senate candidate since the Green Independent Party’s John Rensenbrink in 1996 has tried that, and he got 4 percent of the vote.
This time around, King is so well-positioned that there’s no room for politeness. The only reasonable approach for the Hapless Dweeb and the Unelectable Right-Winger is to go negative on him with an unprecedented vengeance.
Take a real issue such as King’s inept fiscal policies during his two terms as governor. Now, forget it. It’s too complicated, too difficult to reduce to a slogan. Instead, go with this:
Angus is a suspected Satanist, a known purveyor of pornography and a close advisor to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on effective techniques for mass murder.
Don’t get bogged down complaining about King’s efforts to turn Maine mountaintops into industrial wind projects. The issue isn’t divisive enough, so, try this:
Angus’ real job since leaving office has been operating meth labs, with a sideline in dealing prescription opiates stolen from senior citizens to elementary school students.
You’re not going to move the poll numbers by griping about King’s failure to accomplish much in eight years in the Blaine House. Too vague. Needs a sharper edge. For instance:
Angus is currently under investigation in a face-eating zombie episode, as well as being linked in FBI surveillance reports to a terrorist plot to destroy the Slugger statue outside Hadlock Field.
Actually, that last one could win him a few votes.
You might be laboring under the mistaken impression that such outrageous (and – in a concession to my libel lawyer – entirely false) accusations are unlikely to sway public opinion to any detectable extent. Maine voters aren’t like the ignorant hicks in other states who respond like rats in a laboratory experiment to electric shocks. We’re more considered in forming our opinions. Also, more inclined to drink Allen’s coffee brandy in quantities that would gag somebody from New York, California or Wisconsin.
The fact is, if done correctly, negative campaigning works as well in this state as anywhere else, because, contrary to Mainers exalted opinions of themselves, they’re as susceptible as anyone when it comes to being manipulated.
Political mudslinging, no matter how removed from the truth, is nearly always effective when combined with the other element that needs to be dug out of that swamp:
By which I mean several million dollars inserted into the political mix by out-of-state super PACs.
It’s unlikely this sort of cash will come from the Democratic Party. The national Dems decided long ago that whichever Hapless Dweeb won the primary was a general-election loser. Their dough will go elsewhere.
But the GOP, even when confronted with an Unelectable Right-Winger, may conclude that the prospect of holding on to a Senate seat is so tempting as to offset the odds of getting trounced by King. A few TV spots on the theme of “Angus is planning to kidnap your teenage daughter and chain her naked in a hidden chamber in his basement” could shift enough coffee-brandy-befuddled votes to allow Republicans to crawl through the oozing glop to capture a plurality.
From here, it gets ugly.
You take the wheel.
If you don’t email me at email@example.com, I’ll force your kidnapped children to watch the candidates debate.