Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Corker's "Hail Mary" doomed to fail

I was not surprised to see Bob Corker's camp call in reinforcements from the Republican National Committee (RNC) and the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee (RSCC) with negative ads designed to counter Harold Ford Jr.'s barrage of upbeat, powerful ads on issues that seem to be connecting with Tennessee voters - national security and education. After all, this week the Washington Post had an insightful piece about how the RNC and its tangled web of "committees" plans on spending virtually every remaining cent they have left on targeted negative ads aimed at tearing down Democrats, rather than talking about real issues. They clearly have embraced the old "if you ain't got nothing to say, just spit" philosophy.
But the timing of Corker's tactics to go so deep down the negative path only made more sense to me after hearing the results of a recent succession of statewide big sample polls - one internal by Ford's people and one independent of any camp (WBIR-TV)- that shows the Senate race in a virtual dead heat, with Ford given the edge in growing favorability by voters across the board.
While the desperation from Corker's camp is obvious even to the most novice of pundits or armchair analysts, and while their strategy to distort and attack Ford so viciously is textbook GOP, I do wonder if Corker's gurus understand that every baseless negative attack they make only serves to increase voters' negative perceptions of their GOP candidate. The stats in both recent polls clearly show a steady climb in Corker's negatives since July, and upping the anty with more negative attacks from Corker and his GOP consortium of committees will only fuel the climb.
Maybe this approach is Corker's attempt at a "Hail Mary" of sorts. He's heading into the fourth quarter (35 days away from the start of early voting), he has no momentum, his gameplan is not gaining him any ground...so, he decides to go for broke. Throw principle and dignity to the wind, and hope voters will forgive him later.
Granted this approach has worked for some in the past. But given the serious distain voters have this political cycle with "more of the same" and "politics as usual," I'd characterize Corker's "Hail Mary" as a bad call in anyone's playbook.