Power and Politics - I am Not the Yellow Peril

The life and times of an Asian American activist who tells all the truth (and dishes news and analysis) but with a leftwards slant.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Webb gains on Allen

Another hat tip to Americablog for covering the Allen-"macaca" fiasco so well: apparently Allen's racist quip has brought the attention to Webb's campaign that I predicted it would, and now Democrats are looking at this as the possible sixth pickup in the Senate that we need to take back a Democratic majority!

From the WashPost:

Political analysts also said they sense a more competitive race.

"If the race wasn't on Democrats' radar screen before, it is now," said Charlie Cook, editor of the Cook Political Report.

A week of national headlines -- none good for Allen -- has the potential to change the Virginia campaign from a Democratic long shot to one that could help decide which party controls the U.S. Senate next year, political analysts said. But only if Webb, who has struggled in his first run for office, can translate the temporary boost into lasting momentum.

Plus the latest Rasmussen (independent polling firm) shows Allen at 47, Webb at 42. Not half bad for a former Reagan military guy who was twenty points behind in April. That's quite a head of steam, and three more months until the election. I dare say that if Webb can keep up the momentum, he'll be even or ahead in two months, which sets him up perfectly for November's general election. Moreover, the poll finds that while Allen's approval numbers have fallen from 70% to 57%, Webb's approval rating is at 47% with 20% unsure what to think of him. This basically means that now is the time for Web to really get out there and get his message and platform across - to cement voters' opinions before Allen's campaign does the job for him. And make no mistake - despite his foolish error, Allen still has some of the best guns in the business who are no stranger to winning by smearing opponents (Dick Wadhams) -- some call him "Rove's heir apparent."

Wadhams has lost only one of the nine statewide campaigns he has worked on. Now that Rove's tenure as pre-eminent consigliere is drawing to a close—at a press breakfast shortly after the November 2004 election, he said he wouldn't run another presidential campaign—Wadhams is emerging as his most obvious successor.

. . . In those races, Wadhams didn't hesitate to run attack ads and regularly belittle his opponents. His approach mirrors not only Rove's but also that of the late Lee Atwater, creator of the Willie Horton ads that helped sink Michael Dukakis. While most campaign managers are defensive about going negative, however—Atwater, for example, claimed he got the idea for the Horton ads from Al Gore's primary campaign—Wadhams is entirely unapologetic. "There's nothing wrong with going negative," he once argued. "Staying positive is a disservice to the voters because differences between the candidates are never revealed."

. . . Not every candidate would allow his or her campaign manager to act as a mouthpiece. But Wadhams' approach limits a client's chance to screw up. Given the weaknesses of some of the candidates he works with, that's probably vital. Republican Sen. Conrad Burns of Montana, for example, nearly blew his re-election chances in 2000 when he called Arabs "ragheads."* Instead of featuring candidate speeches or press conferences, Wadhams understands that controlling the message starts with making sure you don't hand ammunition to the opposition, so he deluges reporters with written press releases and phones them himself, sometimes as many as five times a day.
This is one of the reasons why candidates regularly have trackers at opponent's speeches -- you never know what might pop out of their mouths. Expect to see Wadhams handling more communications and deflecting the criticisms, if not starting to go negative ASAP.

Oh, wait, here he is in the Post:

Dick Wadhams, Allen's campaign manager, said: "The fundamentals of this race have not changed, which are the Democrats have a candidate who is incapable of taking a position on any issue."

At any rate, the race is heating up, which is good news for Dems and Chuck Schumer of the DSCC. I'm looking forward to watching Sidarth's political star rise.

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