I’m not a witch who hates puppies

Elections are the talk of the internets today; but since it’s too late for new messages and polls haven’t closed yet, everything before about 8:00 p.m. EDT tonight is really just mindless chatter.

Water cooler talk this morning seems to center around the Republican chances for taking the Senate, and that inevitably turns to the campaign of Christine O’Donnell in Delaware – and you really can’t have that discussion without talking about the now-famous “I’m not a witch” ad:

Despite the criticism and ridicule O’Donnell received for this ad, the message was pretty appropriate.  With national Democrats and media outlets lambasting her past television appearances and outspoken commentary on morality issues, O’Donnell was in danger of being defined by the environment not only as an extreme candidate, but as a truly bizarre person.  So she targeted the infamous clip that was circulating where she talks about her dalliances with witchcraft and tried to shift focus on the “real issues” of the campaign.

The problem wasn’t in this message, but in her very serious, isn’t-this-election-just-the-most-important-thing-in-human-history tone.  Michael Steele did a pretty good job of this in his 2006 bid for a Maryland Senate seat:

The line from Steele’s ad that had everyone talking?  “By the way, I love puppies.”  It’s silly, but positive (and certainly not defensive, like “I’m not a witch”).  Steele went up to Delaware to help O’Donnell campaign, but maybe he should have had a discussion about diffusing negative ads.

 

Please keep talking about Christine O’Donnell

Christine O’Donnell isn’t a witch.  And she probably won’t be the next Senator from Delaware, either.  That hasn’t stopped a wave of national media attention.  From witchcraft to debate gaffes to media clashes to the now-famous Gawker story about an alleged one-night stand, every move O’Donnell makes seems to light up the DC pundit crowd.

Considering that O’Donnell is looking up at a 18 point deficit, her campaign really doesn’t deserve the attention.  But in a time when coverage of every local election seems to include the context of national trends, Republicans could do worse.

In 2002, a tasteless pep rally over Paul Wellstone’s corpse is blamed soured many voters on Democrats and helped big Republican gains.  In 2006, George Allen’s macaca moment and Mark Foley’s dalliances with 16-year-old-boys contributed to the narrative of Republicans as out-of-touch, scandal-prone, and fat with power – a theme which had been established by the Katrina debacle and the Iraq war losing popularity.   Elections in 2004 and 2008 benefited from Presidential coattails.

Thanks to O’Donnell’s fumbling, stumbling campaign, CNN and MSNBC aren’t banging their drums about the romper stomper outside a Rand Paul rally.  Keith Fimian’s unwise use of the 2006 Virginia Tech shootings to illustrate the need for gun rights may cost him a tight race, but it won’t save other endangered Virginia Democrats – or successfully paint Republicans as crazy gun-toting nut jobs in races nationwide.

Christine O’Donnell won’t win a Senate seat in Delaware, but her campaign may help Republican gains elsewhere.

(One side note on this Gawker deal: So this lurid story of a one-night stand comes from from someone is doing well enough in life that he wasn’t interested in sealing the deal with O’Donnell, but not so well that he was above accepting a “low four figures” payment for the story?)