No Circular Firing Squad?
Posted by Mary
Where is the circular firing squad? The one where Democratic primary candidates wipe out their opponents and provide lots of fodder for the RNC in the general election? And is the lack good or bad for the general election? The New York Times has an article what remarks on how few TV attack ads there have been of Democrats on Democrats in this primary season. (Note that we political junkies know this is not strictly true, because we remember the nasty things the DLC said about the activist base, but since this was conducted early and outside of the TV ad cycle, it didn't make any impression on the average primary voter.) It turns out that things have been so tame this season that people hired to watch the slaughter have had nothing to do.
This relatively tranquil environment will surely change soon, as the campaign moves on to the general election. But even as Howard Dean, Vermont's former governor, and Senator John Edwards of North Carolina continue to fight for their political lives in the Wisconsin primary on Tuesday, neither has reverted to the long-honored tradition of "going negative" to drag down the front-runner.
This situation has elated the Democratic Party, whose likely nominee, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, is emerging from a normally bruising process with few scrapes and scratches.
Far less thrilled are Republicans, who had hoped that the Democrats would have done more of the work for them in roughing up the nominee before the general election. It was the Republicans who lobbed the first full assault on Mr. Kerry, in an Internet advertisement last week.
But there is also good news for Republicans, President Bush's campaign aides say.
"Nobody really bothered to attack him," Terry Holt, the Bush campaign's press secretary, said of Mr. Kerry. "So he comes out of the primary without having answered the most basic questions regarding his readiness to be president, his clarity of philosophy. Those could be a problem down the line."
Bill Scher, of Liberal Oasis, in his post about the Wisconsin primary results wonders if one of the reasons Edwards did so well was because he had no negative press. Although Kerry handled the negative press he received in the past few weeks, the fact that he has gotten bad press has created the opportunity that Edwards needed to strongly challenge Kerry and to keep this primary season competitive until at least March 2nd. (Hey! That means I'll get to cast a vote that matters in this primary - this will be a first for me.)
LO's observation seems to be right on target, and shows that Democrats are still looking for THE candidate that will take out Bush. Yet, it raises one concern for me. Does that mean that Democrats are soft on all their choices? If so, what happens if we get to the main election and the full bore negative attack ad machine hits our candidate? Will Democrats back their candidate even if he wasn't their first choice? Will they hang tough when the news is all bad (f.g., will they hold their noses to vote Democrat even if they are convinced he is a slimy pol)? And if they end up having to hold their noses, what will be the response of the Independent voter? This will be a very nasty campaign, and we are going to have to have well-grounded reasons for our support and soundbites that say why it is important to vote for our candidate and to kick Bush out despite everything dished out. Why is this our problem? Because we will be part of the activitist base that will need to make these points to those who are feeling that it won't make any difference so why bother to vote.