Monday, October 09, 2006

The Teflon stalking horse 

The continued discussion over the weekend of the Wetterling ad (for example, Bachmann v Wetterling's coverage of the CNN appearance of the two candidates, or Mitch Berg's analysis) meant our show was dominated by the issue despite all our efforts not to. (Here's hour 1 with many bloggers, hour 2 with John Binkowski and Bachmann. Hey, why not subscribe to all six hours of the NARN, and get some Strommie too?) During the second hour I had a second thought about this issue of the ad.

In short, my thesis is that Patty Wetterling has become a vehicle through which the Democratic Party is playing the Foley scandal for political advantage. She comes with a number of advantages, most notably her own tragedy. It's an issue that John Binkowski (the Independence Party candidate) said "was one of the few issues [Patty] can hit out of the park." But she also comes with a set of definitions for 'molestation' and 'cover-up' and 'admitted' that are so outside the usual use of those words that mainstream media are calling it at least 'false' and 'misleading'.

Because of her history, the MSM are reluctant to go so far as to call this a 'lie'. This is, after all, Saint Patty we're talking about. And that makes her the perfect vehicle for the Democrats, a Teflon stalking horse with which they can portray the Republicans as doing things far more wicked than the facts currently in evidence suggest. (And worth noting, again, is that the ad was released last Tuesday before Rep. Reynolds, the Foley chief of staff, Roy Blount and the others started tossing Denny Hastert under the bus.)

The sad spectacle of the House leadership falling over each other to charge the microphones and blame someone else is doing the one thing that can damage the party's chances more than anything else. My fellow St. Cloud blogger Gary Gross pointed out last week the importance of GOTV and demographics. At one point this summer it was believe that over 95% of the Republican base voter was either "almost certain" or "very likely" to vote; Gary and I have talked over the summer about how hard it would be for Democrats to overcome that. Thus the Wetterling ad: The effect of Foley isn't so much to swing voters to the Democratic column but to discourage Republican base turnout. Thus articles like this will be common, and every fingerpointing from Republicans will make page one above of the fold in the MSM. Bachmann said to us Saturday that her contributions and hits of her website were up almost tenfold (no doubt helped in part by Hugh's lionization of her campaign), but nobody else is going to get this kind of help unless there is a real change in how Washington Republicans handle this mess.

The saddest part? The overriding issue of Wetterling's 2004 campaign was that she could not broaden her focus beyond child safety issues. It is still the issue. Using her as a mouthpiece for the Foley affair is retrograde to her own campaign's best interest. It would be ironic for the Democrats to win the House in November, but for Wetterling to lose to Bachmann. But if the election were to be held today, I think that is the most likely outcome.