2006 Politics: Election Strategies

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Strategies are flying around this country like a locust storm. Different strategies for different politicians in different districts makes them so numerous as to require a book to cover even half of them. However, there are some core strategies underpinning campaigns for different parties, which I will call Distance, Record, and Coalition.

Distance strategy.

Of course, with the polls as they are, Republicans have the most defensive strategies in general. Their key strategy is to distance themselves from Pres. Bush, many of his policies, and their own voting records on Bush's policies. In addition, Republican candidates are focusing on issues that will resonate locally with their constituents like pro-life or pro-choice positions. This can be a shrewd strategy if their challengers allow them to fly with it - most won't, of course.

One example of this distancing is reported by CBS:

Consider Rep. Deborah Pryce, the fourth-ranking House Republican struggling to hold onto her seat in an evenly split district in central Ohio, near Columbus.

In 2004, her campaign Web site featured a banner of her and Bush sitting together, smiling. But in her latest television ad, Pryce is described as "independent."

In districts where GOP candidates are running in predominantly Republican districts, this strategy could be quite effective against Democratic candidates, especially, where the GOP candidate coops the Democrat's stronger platform issues. Some Republicans are touting more oversight by Congress, and resolving to look for the earliest possible strategy to bring our troops home from Iraq while insuring a stable Iraq. In strong GOP districts, even a 10% crossover vote to Democrats is not going to cost the Republican incumbent a win, though the margin of victory may be smaller than once hoped.

Record Strategy

Democrats and Republicans are trying to paint each other negative based on their voting records. Some Democrats are attacking Republicans as joined at the hip to Pres. Bush and his failed policies on the basis of their 'rubber stamping' his policies in the Congress. In a debate in the last week, one Democrat touted GOP incumbent's record as having voted with Bush's policies 97% of the time. The Washington Times reports: "Mr. Webb [D], a decorated Vietnam veteran whose own son is serving in Iraq, has portrayed Mr. Allen [R] as a rubber stamp for President Bush who failed to prevent the country from going to war." With Pres. Bush's numbers dropping like a rock again, it seems like a logical strategy.

This strategy of attacking the voter record though, was adopted by Republicans toward Democrats at least as early as the first week of September as the Washington Post reports: "Republicans plan to attack Democratic candidates over their voting records, business dealings, and legal tussles, the GOP officials said."

In districts where Republican incumbents won by less than a 10% margin in 2004, big trouble is ahead. In addition, many more such previously close races came onto the radar screen as toss-ups since the Foley scandal broke. These GOP incumbents may have squeaked out a win in their districts 3 weeks ago. But, with the Foley scandal threatening 1 to 3 percent of disgusted Republicans finding something better to do on election day than to vote for their Republican, and independent voters moving in large numbers toward Democrats, the balance is suddenly tipping in Democrats favor. The big question no one can answer, is whether the Foley scandal has the legs to remain a focus issue on Nov. 7? I personally have my doubts, but we shall have to wait and see.

The general Democrat strategy until very recently has been to give the Republicans rope to hang themselves on Iraq and the wage earner's economic picture. The more Republican candidates backed Bush on Iraq, the less appealing they became to voters. The more they talked up how great the economy is, the more divided the electorate became based on whether the economy has touched them positively or negatively. Though Democrats have yet to find a unified voice on a platform of issues, I have to suspect this is 100% intentional and not entirely a result of diversity opinion.

Democrats risk alienating groups of voters by adopting a centralized issue platform. Not having a record, is how Democrats hope to foil Republicans trying to attack them on one. In part, this too may be shrewd due to its disarming effect on Republicans attempt to paint all Democrats with a single brush. Some Democrats are running on changing the course in Iraq but NOT withdrawal. Others are calling for timetables for withdrawal. Still others are calling for Rumsfeld's investigation and, or resignation for failing to accurately portray the severity of the situation in Iraq. This makes it difficult for Republicans to oppose Democrats based on their being Democrats, since the term Democrat does not represent a solid set of policy stances.

Coalition Strategy

This is the oddman out strategy beginning to take hold in places like Texas, Florida, and N. Carolina. It is a strategy in which independents and third party voters are agreeing to vote for each other's candidates where there own party has no candidate running, in order to defeat a Republocrat. What binds them is the combination of a general anti-incumbent sentiment aimed at both Democrats and Republicans, as well as a hope of electing local candidates who can lower the ballot access barriers to independent and 3rd party candidates in future elections.

One odd coalition that has independents, Democrats, Republicans, Latino and black groups alike leaning toward Democrats is the minimum wage issue. The Century Foundation reports: "Moreover, support for raising the minimum wage is remarkably high across partisan affiliations. In the November poll mentioned above, not only did 93 percent of Democrats favor a boost in the minimum wage, so did 80 percent of independents and even 73 percent of Republicans."

This may partially explain why Republicans are having a devil of a time promoting the positive economic statistics. Despite their best efforts, voters remain less than optimistic on their future pocketbook issues with Republicans in the majority.

There are many other strategies be played out there in America's election districts, not the least of which is the old favorite, smear, smear, smear your opponent. But, American voters I suspect, are less susceptible to such tactics, accepting them largely as distorted, and tricks of the trade to divert attention away from the issues voters care about. But, it is not easy to overlook the dominant strategies of distancing, using opponent's voting records, and loose coalitions gathering around the strategy to defeat incumbent obstacles to voter's issues and solutions.

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This page contains a single entry by David R. Remer published on October 13, 2006 2:17 PM.

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