Recently, I made sport of VTGOP chair David Sunderland for issuing yet another baseless attack on Secretary of State Jim Condos. Seems only fair that I should point out that the Vermont Democratic Party’s attacks are just as poorly-aimed and baseless.
Two recent examples: The Dems trying to make hay over Phil Scott’s fundraising, and their thinly-evidenced claim that the Scott campaign is in cahoots with the Republican Governors Association. Both attacks are poorly-considered, and both will fail to resonate.
The more recent first. The VTDems filed an official complaint with the attorney general’s office, charging improper collusion between Scott and the RGA’s SuperPAC. By law, SuperPACs can promote or attack candidates, but their efforts must be completely independent of any candidate’s campaign.
The SuperPAC, “A Stronger Vermont,” has been running positive ads about Scott. The Dems’ complaint sits on a tenuous foundation: the fact that an RGA film crew has been filming in close proximity to Scott, which means he must have been aware of the camera crew and their provenance.
Yeah, well, maybe. But that doesn’t prove anything.
And, as with Sunderland’s recent complaint, the fact that the VTDems went public at the same time they filed their complaint reveals their true intent:
They didn’t want justice, they wanted publicity.
This is standard political game-playing, and I doubt that any voters are paying attention. It’s white noise, and people tune it out.
Also, to be effective, an attack has to exploit a candidate’s weaknesses. Example: the John Kerry parasailing ad from 2004,showing the “Upper Class Twit” enjoying upper-class recreation; or Republican attacks on Governor Shumlin over the Jeremy Dodge land deal. Both exploited flaws in a candidate, and both resonated with voters.
In this case, the Dems are fruitlessly attacking Phil Scott’s strongest point: his personal character. By and large, voters see Scott as trustworthy and honest. They’re not going to buy a character-themed attack.
Nor will they be convinced that he’s a tool of outside interests. Which brings us to the earlier attack: a website created by the VTDems raising questions over Scott’s fundraising. It seeks to paint him as a tool of big-money conservatism.
It’s not gonna work. And, as Seven Days’ Paul Heintz pointed out, it’s hypocritical — because Sue Minter has benefited greatly from out-of-state liberal interests, and accepted at least as many corporate contributions as Scott. And the Democratic Governors Association is running ads on her behalf. Not nearly as many as the RGA for Scott, but enough that the attack just doesn’t hold water.
Now, if you ask me how I’d attack Phil Scott, I have an idea. He is The Man In The Empty Suit. Scott may be an honest, compassionate individual, but his campaign has been woefully short on ideas. It’s an empty vessel waiting to be filled. Scott has failed, so far, to venture beyond vague generalities and get specific.
Even his vaunted economic plan is full of holes and empty space.
To me, that’s the real issue. What would Phil Scott actually do as governor? Beyond “listening and leading,” I mean.
Instead of “Phil Scott Paid For By,” I’d set up a website devoted to the empty rhetoric and unanswered questions in the Phil Scott campaign. And that’s where I’d spend my ad money.
But hey, I’m not a paid operative. I haven’t done the research. I don’t have the internal polling data. Just my two cents; I think the Democrats are wasting their time and aiming at the wrong target.
I’m gonna nitpick on a classic lefty mistake I think you made; “to be effective, an attack has to exploit a candidate’s weaknesses.” I think Karl Rove left that notion for dead some time back, and coined the term “swift boating” in the process.
An effective attack can exploit a candidate’s weaknesses, sure. An even more effective attack can blindside a candidate and create weaknesses out of what they thought were their strengths. Harder to pull off, but very very powerful.
Perhaps, but I’ll present a counter-argument. John Kerry served with honor in Vietnam, but his service was at odds with his Upper Class Twit image. Even though Rove’s smear was absolutely without foundation, it stuck because it seemed congruent with the Kerry stereotype. Just like George W. didn’t look or act like a draft dodger, so it didn’t stick to him.
Actually, just like all the Republican chickenhawks. They talk and act tough, they love John Wayne and Ronald Reagan, therefore they are true manly men.