Duds and Demons, Part 1.5
This is a brief addition to my nascent series on the effectiveness or otherwise of political attacks. I hadn’t planned to write anything this soon after Part One, but new polling numbers from the West Virginia Senate race have forced my hand.
Quick scene setting: WV has a Senate vacancy brought about by the death of the legendary Robert Byrd. While Byrd was a Democrat, the state voted against Obama in 2008 and is increasingly Republican in tilt — so much so that even West Virginia’s popular Democratic Governor, Joe Manchin, has looked unlikely to win the Senate race against a far less well known Republican, businessman John Raese. Until now, that is.
Joe Machin has reclaimed the polling lead (47-44) in the Senate race after a mini-scandal last week that is exactly kind of “inside baseball” or “process” story that can impact races, whatever the self-flagellating political and media elite may think.
It all started when the national Republicans put up this particularly effective TV spot tying the popular local Governor to the extremely unpopular (in WV) President Obama.
A day or so after this aired, however, the casting call for this ad found its way, via the Democrats, into the media:
We are going for a ‘Hicky’ Blue Collar look. These characters are from West Virginia so think coal miner/trucker looks.
It turned out that the casting call led to three actors from suburban Philadelphia playing the part of West Virginia (squeal like a pig) hicks.
Ignoring the advice of the professional blabber-mouths on cable news shows who said this was a “non-starter” because “no-one cares how the sausage gets made”, Manchin has been raising merry hell about the ad. And it is paying dividends, big time.
First, Manchin knows that hicks hate being called hicks except by themselves or each other. Second, he understands that the potency of the “hicky” slur lies in the fact that it resonates with an existing view about the Republican Raese: that he is not really an authentic local. For months, Manchin has laid the groundwork by highlighting the fact that Raese has a home in Florida where his wife resides and they share beneficial tax status. ‘Hicky’ plays into this, and that is the critical success factor in a political assault: it amplifies a credible case you are already making.
By the way, the latest poll was taken before Bill Clinton paid Manchin a visit yesterday. Clinton, the uber-hick, is possibly the only Democrat alive who can get some juices flowing in Appalachia. Expect more movement in Manchin’s direction.