One of the most puzzling developments of the past few days has been Hillary Clinton’s transformation from a boogeywoman Republican use to scare conservative voters away from Democratic candidates into a working class heroin praised by the GOP’s presidential ticket!
Hillary’s new ambiguous position on the American political scene was confirmed by two new ads airing in red states. In Mississippi, Roger Wicker is using her as a stand-in for Washington Democrats in a spot that urges voters not to “send a failed ex-Governor to support Hillary’s liberal agenda:”
Meanwhile, in conservative Kentucky, Bruce Lunsford is touting Clinton’s support. Not only will the New York Senator visit the state a second time Sunday to boost Lunsford, but footage of her first visit a few weeks ago is now being highlighted in a new Lunsford ad:
That’s right, a Democratic Senate candidate in Kentucky is doing his best to tie his fate to Hillary Clinton’s popularity. Who could have predicted that a few months ago? Given that Mississippi and Kentucky are both red states that McCain is likely to win by wide margins, the discrepancy between Wicker and Lunsford’s ads is somewhat curious - though perhaps not dramatically so.
Democrats enjoy a large registration advantage in Kentucky, but conservative-minded blue-collar Democrats have become reliable Republican voters. It is precisely that constituency that Clinton championed in the latter half of the primary, and Kentucky’s Democratic voters rewarded her with a resounding 35% victory in the late May contest. Today, Lunsford is looking to mobilize the Democratic base by proving to Kentucky’s Democratic voters that he belongs to the Clinton wing of the party rather than to the Obama wing - whatever those distinctions came to mean in the last few months of the Obama-Clinton showdown.
In North Carolina, the entire Senate campaign has come to a scratching halt and has been replaced by the controversy over Elizabeth Dole’s “Godless” ad. Kay Hagan filed a defamation lawsuit, but that is not preventing Dole from firing another shot. This is not about “Hagan’s faith,” the new ad says, but about the “fact” that she attended a party thrown by Godless Americans. The concludes by asking, “If Godless Americans threw a party in your honor, would you go?”
Elizabeth Dole is putting all her re-election hopes on this one attack against Hagan - not that she has a choice. After Kay Hagan’s forceful response, Dole would be admitting that her initial ad was a disgrace if she backed down, so she is accepting the showdown. At the very least this new ad no longer juxtaposes Hagan’s image with a woman’s voice announcing that there is no God.
It is nearly impossible to predict what impact such attacks have, so we will have to wait until Tuesday night to see whether it allowed Dole to discredit Hagan and mount a comeback or whether it backfired. One factor to take into account, of course, is the jaw-dropping early voting turnout rate (already 60% of the total 2004 vote), which means it is probable than more than half of voters already cast their ballot as this controversy is heating up.
In Alaska, Ted Stevens is trying to convince voters to re-elect him despite his guilty verdict. In a new ad in which he talks directly to the camera, Stevens insists he is innocent and seeks to cast the trial and its conclusion as non-Alaskans trying to intrude in Alaska affairs:
As we discovered over the past few months, there is a powerful anti-lower 48 current in Alaska (even Todd Palin was a member of the Alaska Independence Party, after all), and Stevens is trying to channel that anger to get voters to not only forgive him for his conviction but to also rally around him. If anyone can pull this off, it’s probably Stevens, who is as towering a figure in his home state as any politician in the country, making it easier for him to appeal to voters’ Alaskan pride.
In House races, both parties are making last-minute expenditures - and the NRCC is by far making the biggest splash. It has bought $465,000 worth of air time against Democratic congressman Jack “Western Pennsylvanians are racist” Murtha. That’s a very substantial sum of money to spread over just 4 days, especially when it comes to the NRCC. The Republican committee has budgetary difficulties and it has pulled the plug on an number of highly endangered incumbents (Musgrave in CO-04, Bachmann in MN-06, Knollenberg in MI-09, …).
For the NRCC invest this much money in this seat at the last minute means that they are very confident that Murtha’s comments have made him highly vulnerable. If Murtha loses Tuesday night (which is very possible), it will mark a stunning upset that just two weeks ago was unthinkable; if Murtha wins by a comfortable margin, this is one $465,000 that Republicans who’ll go down in tight races will be particularly bitter about.
Meanwhile, the DCCC is spending modest expenditures in at least two GOP-held seats in which they had yet to invest: FL-18 and NJ-05. Both districts are rated likely Republican in my recent House ratings, and polls in both have suggested that the once-comfortable GOP incumbents risk being upset on Tuesday. The DCCC’s last-minute push could help make the most of this - but it is certainly getting late.