Perhaps, because I was dining with my fellow Ephs (graduates of Williams College) last night that I defended our fellow alum Martha Coakley as I had on this blog just after her defeat last week. She was waging the right kind of campaign for a special election in a jurisdiction which overwhelmingly favored her party.
When, however, she began to realize she had a race on her hands, her campaign had about ten days to shift strategies before voters trooped to the polls. Now, in the wake of her defeat in that overwhelmingly Democratic jurisdiction, national Democrats are already hitting the panic button even though there are more than nine months until Election Day. While Democrats don’t have the full length of a human gestation cycle to come up with a new strategy, they have time.
Instead, they’re trying to come up with a strategy on the fly, much as Coakley did, and pulling from their old bag of tricks and their own prejudices about Republicans. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) Chairman Robert Menendez’s tack, as Jennifer Rubin puts it, “is to force their opponents to answer wacky questions and then make them out to be extremist nuts“:
Do you believe that Barack Obama is a U.S. citizen? Do you think the 10th Amendment bars Congress from issuing regulations like minimum health care coverage standards? Do you think programs like Social Security and Medicare represent socialism and should never have been created in the first place? Do you think President Obama is a socialist? Do you think America should return to a gold standard?
Democrats want to win not by defending their record but by splitting the GOP. They’re assuming, of course, that if the Republican answers, “Yes,” to the first question and “No” to the others, he’ll instantly lose the support of the party’s enthusiastic “right-wing” base. But, seems Scott Brown did not answer the way those wing-nuts would have wanted him to answer and guess, well, as soon as Harry Reid’ll have him, he gets to be a U.S. Senator.
For some reason, I just don’t think this strategy will work when people are so angry at Washington. And anyway, Democrats tried this before, in the very Massachusetts race that got them so spooked. DNC spinmeister Hari Sevugan tried to use Sarah Palin’s silence on Scott Brown against him.
When that Democrat brought up that good woman, Democrats had eight days before balloting began. National Democrats don’t have the same excuse Mrs Coakley did. In that accelerated campaign, the Massachusetts Democrat didn’t have much time to shift strategy. Where Democrats have months, she had days. They’re hitting the panic button when they should be deciphering the results, reviewing the change in the electorate and developing a strategy to respond to those results and those changes.