We’re seeing more and more discussion of the fact that Republican candidates nationwide have basically dropped off the map, relying on advertising and the national mood over retail campaigning and public appearances.
As of Friday, Colorado Republican Senate hopeful Ken Buck had gone nine consecutive days without holding a public event and acknowledged to The Denver Post that he’s more mindful now that he’s constantly being recorded by the ubiquitous ‘trackers’ being used by both sides. (With the fundraising quarter now done, however, he’s planning a more robust schedule for October.)
Tea party darlings Rand Paul of Kentucky and Christine O’Donnell of Delaware both surged to primary victories thanks, in part, to national media exposure, but after their own comments got them into trouble, they abruptly canceled post-primary Sunday show appearances and have largely avoided doing non-Fox national TV.
But what’s more remarkable is that they’ve also taken a low profile in their own states. Paul once asked local reporters to submit questions in writing and often hurries to his car to avoid them.
The The New York Times picked up on this as well. The rise of trackers certainly plays a role here; you can call it the “Macaca” effect. But polished politicians usually hold themselves in enough regard that they’re happy to discuss the issues with their constituents, which after all is the basis for a democracy. What we’re seeing here is that a variety of GOP candidates don’t want to explain their takes on those issues, because they are wildly unpopular.
Take the minimum wage, which has incredibly become an issue in the election, particularly after Linda McMahon in Connecticut let slip that she would be “open” to reductions in it. John Raese, the Senate candidate in West Virginia, has been far more direct, calling for the minimum wage’s elimination, and Joe Miller in Alaska used his favorite technique by calling it unconstitutional. Michael Steele couldn’t say what the federal minimum wage level was last night on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show. Clearly Democrats are licking their chops with this debate.
Miller, by the way, has also said that unemployment benefits should be “managed by the states,” even though his wife received them after working for him. He also stepped in it at a town hall meeting in Fairbanks by discussing his strict reading of the constitution along with a call for amendments to it on term limits and repealing the 17th Amendment, which allows for the direct election of Senators, the process in which Miller is currently engaged. He said he himself took farm subsidies while living in Kansas in the 1990s, against his principles, because the government forced him to.
Then there’s Rand Paul, who said recently that medicaid has created “intergenerational warfare”, and that the best policy going forward would be a $2,000 deductible for Medicare. Jack Conway and the DSCC’s response shows the clear tactic of simply using Republican’s actual policy ideas as campaign fodder for Democrats.
You can see another example of this with Joe Sestak’s campaign, blasting out the actual audio of Pat Toomey’s statement about privatizing Social Security:
Republican candidates don’t want to go out and campaign because they think voters might actually catch on to their ideas. The last thing they want is for voters to know that, and make a choice. Given the unpopularity of these ideas and the skillful use by Democrats of what little there is that exists in the public record, it’s probably a good strategy. But the lack of connection to actual voters in any one-on-one contact probably shaves a half a point to a point off their vote totals, on the margins.