I gotta say, I love it when a candidate realizes what needs to be done and gets down to brass tacks. All the money in world can’t dislodge an entrenched incumbent without clear contrast messaging. Yes, that’s a euphemism for going negative. The voters pretty much have to hate or mistrust the incumbent before they give another guy a chance to represent them; that’s just the way it is.
Too many Dems are shy about going after the record of their opponents for fear of seeming too ‘aggressive’ or ‘negative’. But there is a place for contrast messages and that place is precisely when addressing an opponent’s record. Such messages are never unwarranted if done fairly and without distorting the facts. They have the highest potential to both educate the public and draw down support for your opponent. Tone is everything, however, and Bob Lord’s release is great example of how to stay on the criticism side of the line and avoid simple mud-slinging. The parenthetical remarks in grey are mine.
Bob Lord challenged John Shadegg to explain (an invitation to dialog is always the best way to couch a contrast message, and the active verb seems much more like news) the connection between a
controversial (nice choice of word, implying that it is OK for people to be concerned about this vote) vote Shadegg cast this year and money he accepted from
big oil and gas companies (note how a connection is assumed and an explanation requested, there is no explicit argument that there is such a connection to attack; that’s good rhetorical strategy). Shadegg received $12,500 in contributions
in the second quarter from Political Action Committees representing oil
and gas companies. Most of the money was donated within days of the
Congressman voting down a measure to protect consumers from gasoline
price gouging. (proximity implies causality, a classic, refutation just makes you look like a cheese-paring son of a bitch. A real nice touch is the implication that the bill didn’t pass because of Shadegg’s vote)In
May, Shadegg voted against the Federal Price Gouging Protection Act,
legislation intended to crack down on gasoline price gouging by big oil
companies (recent polling indicates that nearly 9 out of 10 Americans – 87% – think big oil firms are gouging consumers, such an allegation really can’t miss). This bill, supported by a majority of House Members,
including 190 Republicans (very key to split off Shadegg even from his own caucus in order to make this appeal stick with Republican voters; he can be viewed as corrupt and compromised without demonizing the whole GOP), would give the Federal Trade Commission new
authority to take action against oil companies and gas stations
profiteering off of consumers (I think this part is a mistake; if you want to appeal to conservatives you don’t talk about new powers for regulatory agencies… better to leave enforcement unspecified). In voting against this popular (I would use the word ‘consensus’ or ‘non-partisan’) measure,
John Shadegg was in a conspicuous minority (nice understatement, but I would gone with ‘out-of-touch’ or ‘fanatical’ minority, rather than conspicuous) of just 34 of 435 House
voters of our district deserve an explanation from John Shadegg,” said
Bob Lord. “At a time when high energy prices are straining the
pocketbooks of Arizona’s families and big oil is making record profits,
his vote to kill this bill certainly leads to a perception of an
inappropriate relationship between the Congressman and special interest
donors.” (great pull quote, I wouldn’t change a thing)More
than half of the money Shadegg raised in the second quarter was from
special interest PACs and individuals representing special interests.
Only 15% of Bob Lord contributions came from out of state while 46% of
Shadegg’s money came from outside Arizona. Lord’s average individual
contribution was $378.56. Shadegg’s average contribution was $1635.62.(Lookee, I’m less compromised than the other guy! Well, it is contrast messaging, but I would have stuck with only assertions about Shadegg’s financial connections to big energy interests and left it at that. This ‘graph feels a bit much like tacked-on boilerplate)"
That, my friends, is one solid contrast piece. Take notes. Your candidates should all be able to do it at least this well. Now, I do have a criticism of Lord’s choice of topic. Who the hell is for gouging consumers (other than Shadegg, apparently)? It is a bit too easy a target. Let’s see some action on issues that are real hot-button wedge issues that could split off some Republicans and motivate them to vote for Lord. Health care? Deficits? Environment? Trade policy? Civil rights? Iraq? Immigration? There are lots of harder targets that need to be hit, Bob. Let’s see what you’ve got.