South Carolina Political Ad Wars Are Well Underway

Bookmark and Share   Since 2000, South Carolina has taken on a reputation as the state in which the presidential primaries get real ugly.  It is a natural result that comes about because of timing and because of its symbolic start of the nomination contest in the all import delegate rich South.

For some candidates, the South is where their greatest strength lies and a win in South Carolina makes it more possible to win the many Southern states that follow, particularly Florida.  But for campaigns that have been battered and bruised in Iowa and New Hampshire, South Carolina always seem to represents a last chance for success.  Those are the campaigns which are usually the most desperate and it is out of desperation that they begin to openly make their strongest, most outrageous, attacks on their rivals.   Then there are the smear campaigns that desperate candidates begin in South Carolina.

In 200o, South carolina Bush supporters began an undergorund effort that saw fliers that labeled McCain “the fag candidate”  circulated in churches.   Then a not so subtle whisper campiagn began to accuse McCain of homosexuality, and having illegitimate children and a drug addicted wife.  Then there was the smear designed to paint McCain as being unstable.  That underground effort was timed to coincide with Bush’s public references to McCain’s “temper”.

With 9 days remaining till voting in South Carolina begins, there will be plenty of time for a whole host of similar whisper campaigns to start.  I expect to hear a few good ones that try to raise doubts about Romney that stem from exaggerations about his Mormon faith, a religion which is about as foreign to South Carolinians as one can possibly get.

In the meantime, the airwaves are being taken over by commercials that reflect very different strategies.

Rick Perry has recently come out with a spot called “President of Honor”.  It tries to spark support for him among the inordinately large military population in South Carolina.

Ron Paul, fresh off of his own slew of negative attack ads like “Betrayal” is also targeting veterans for support of his candidacy.

And while Paul is targeting veterans, a pro-Paul Super PAC called Santa Rita PAC is is doing the same by urging voters to support our troops by supporting Ron Paul.

Then there is a group independent from all the presidential candidates, which is airing an attack on Ron Paul. The Emergency Committee for Israel features Gary Bauer in a spot that takes Ron Paul on for his dangerous foreign policies and conspiracy theories.

Newt Gingrich has chosen to stay focussed on destroying Mitt Romney in his campaign to exact revenge. His most recent South Carolina ad attacks Mitt on the issue of abortion and plays on doubts about Mitt’s conservative credentials.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is leaving the negative attacks up to his supportive Super PACs, such as this one which goes after Newt, sponsored by the pro-Romney PAC, Restore Our Future.

As Mitt leaves the dirty work up to his Super PACs, his campaign is investing most of its money in ads that aim at Barack Obama. Like in this one which he began running last week and which goes after the NLRB decision against Boeing.

A Rick Santorum Super PAC called the Red, White, and Blue Fund is airing a positive piece pitching Santorum as the principled conservative.

While that one is up, flush with an injection of $3 million in donations since his virtual tie in Iowa, Santorum’s campaign is airing another ad which casts him as the full spectrum conservative and the one who can beat President Obama.

And that is all just the beginning. Pretty soon South Carolina’s airwaves will be polluted with more rhetoric, accusations, and false claims than we will be able to keep track of. And that is when the real smear campaigns will begin, when it becomes too hard to really track it back to anyone specific.

But before that happens, Mitt Romney is already airing his ads in Florida, the state where much of this race will conclude. One of Mitt’s first ads up there is entitled Nosotros and essentially speaks to the very influential conservative Cuban American voting bloc in the Sunshine State.

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How Others Have Tried To Make the Case Against Rick Perry

   Bookmark and Share  Rick Perry is currently the longest serving Governor in the nation.  He is also the only person to have ever been elected Governor of Texas three times. Such distinguishing accomplishments are not achieved by luck.  He has to be doing something right.  At the same time you can’t spend over a quarter of a decade in politics and half of that time as the Governor of a state, without making some enemies and some mistakes and no enemies.  However in Perry’s case, it is quite obvious that he still has more friends than enemies in Texas .

When George W. Bush stepped down as Governor to assume the presidency of the United States, Lt. Governor Rick Perry took his place and in 2002 he ran for Governor in his own right. Perry proceeded to handily beat millionaire South Texas businessman Tony Sanchez by a margin of 58% to 40% and that was even after Sanchez spent $75 million of his own money in the race.

By 2006,  Perry was plagued by budget woes, embroiled in battles over school financing reform, and on the receiving end of a controversial and contentious redistricting battle. His approval rating had dropped to 38% during the latter part of the 2005 legislative session and by September of 2006 it had improved but still found Perry in the red with 44% of Texans approving of him compared to 51% disapproving of him.

In that election, Democrat Chris Bell ran an aggressive campaign that relied on uniting Democrats into a coalition that would win a plurality by seeing a divided Republican vote splinter itself among Perry, the G.O.P. nominee and several Independent candidates who were mounting strong campaigns.  One of which included the  State Comptroller of Public Accounts, Republican Carole Keeton Strayhorn.  The strategy did not work.  In the end Perry won but with only less than 40% of the total vote.  A result that made Rick Perry the first person elected to the Lone Star state’s executive office with less than 40% since 1861.

Then in 2010, Perry faced a significant challenge for the Republican gubernatorial nomination from incumbent U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.  Despite many powerful negatives to campaign against Perry with, Hutchison didn’t even leave much of mark on Perry and lost the primary with 30.03 % of the vote to Perry’s 51.1%.  He won the primary handily and went on to defeat his Democrat opponent, former Houston mayor Bill White.  But that race did not always look like it would be very easy for Perry.    At one point the highly respected Charlie Cook of the Cook Report moved the Texas governor’s race from the “leaning Republican” column and placed it in the “toss up” side of the ledger.  But Perry wound up besting White with 54.97% of the vote to White’s 42.28%.

So how did Perry do it?

Well in 2010, Perry successfully shut out Kay Bailey Hutchison with a, “if you think I’m bad, wait till you see her” strategy that painted Hutchison, a three term incumbent in the U.S. Senate, as the ultimate Washington insider.  And in the general election, Perry ran as the ultimate conservative in one of the most ultimately conservative states in the nation.  In his 2010 victory speech, Perry stated that Texans were tired of big government raising taxes and added  “I am genuinely optimistic that we’re one day closer to seeing fiscal conservative approaches applied at the national level as well,”  and then he told the audience who earlier that same evening saw nearly 80 new Republicans get elected to Congress that he wanted to “challenge those new faces in Washington to press for change sooner than later”.  He added “I want them to go in there and really go to work.”  Now, a year later, and Rick Perry is trying to go Washington to make sure that they do just that.

But the question still remains if he is the right person for the job.

While Rick Perry’s natural Texas swagger helps to emphasize his conservative language, there are plenty of potent arguments to challenge the authenticity of his conservatism.  They are questions which although they did not keep him  from getting elected in Texas, could help create quite a negative and damaging impression of Perry among conservatives in places like Iowa, South Carolina, Utah Montana, Wyoming, and Florida.

Here is just a brief look at how Rick Perry’s opponents shaped the case against Perry in the recent past.  We will see how effectively people like Cain, Romney, Bachmann and others may be able to do it in the near future.

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