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The Devil Is In The Details

It might have escaped some people's notice, but we're having more than a presidential election this November. A third of the Senate and the entire House is also up for grabs, and those races tend to get lost in the limelight of the first wide-open presidential race (with neither the sitting president or vice-president on the ticket) since 1952.

Here in New Hampshire, we have a rather hotly contested Senate race. It's kind of a rerun of 2002, with freshman Senator John E. Sununu (R) facing former governor Jeanne Shaheen (D). Last time, it was Representative Sununu against sitting Governor Shaheen, and Sununu squeaked it out.

As I watch (and especially listen) to the ad wars between these two, I sometimes get confused about whether I'm watching their ads or ads for McCain and Obama. The similarities are remarkable.

In both cases, the main thrust of the Democrats' ads is to tie their opponent to President Bush. I've reached the point where I don't remember if Sununu and McCain have voted with Bush 90% of the time, 95% of the time, or 950% of the time -- it all blurs together. And with all the photos shown of McCain and Sununu with Bush, I'm wondering how the three of them spent enough time apart to cast any votes at all.

Meanwhile, about half the Republicans' ads are similarly themed. They talk about what their guy has done in their career, citing specific examples of accomplishments (or, in Sununu's cases, tried but failed -- he was one of the sponsors of a bill to regulate and possibly save Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae). They also talk about things their opponent has done, in specific detail, that they think show why their rival should not be elected.

The part where the ads differ is based on the nature of their opponents. McCain hammers on Obama's inexperience and lack of any record of accomplishments -- essentially saying, "he talks a good game, but he's never ever once been shown to actually do what he promises" -- while Shaheen was New Hampshire's governor for six years, and has an actual record of things for Sununu to point to. And has he ever.

It's all a matter of style, and how much respect the candidates in question have for voters. The Democrats seem to think that too many details run the risk of confusing or boring the voters, so they don't trot out specific accusations and examples of how their opponent is the wrong choice. The Republicans don't seem worried about that; they name names and list dates and give all kinds of specifics on what their opponents have done, and trust that the voters will be sharp enough to understand the message they're being given.

The cynic in me thinks the Democrats might have it right. That simply saying that the Republican is "more Bush" is sufficient -- that the voters won't ask "OK, so he voted with Bush a whole bunch of times. Could you tell us a few of those votes that were so bad?" Both McCain and Sununu have, on several occasions, disagreed with Bush on major issues -- and won compromises from the president. (McCain on the Iraq war strategy and Sununu on the renewal of the Patriot Act, just to name two examples.) They're hardly Bushbots, but danged few people, it seems, are willing to think things through enough to go beyond "95%? There have to be at least some bad votes in there!"

That cynic also thinks that a lot of voters will get the MEGO reflex (My Eyes Glaze Over) when they hear specifics about the Democrats' records -- such as Obama on the Born Alive abortion act and Shaheen's failure to protect New Hampshirites from Providian's ravages, just to name two.

But I don't like to be too cynical when it comes to the American people. I like to think that talking down to voters, treating them like simpletons, is a bad strategy that seldom works. I like to think that ads that talk about specific details and policies and actions will be more persuasive, more compelling than generic smears and vague innuendos.

I hope my cynic is wrong, but far too often he's been proven right.


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Comments (37)

JT, when you figure how man... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

JT, when you figure how many millions of voters will vote ignorantly. Some voters are invited to a free rock concert then told to go vote for Obama and they do. Acorn offers cigs to homeless people to vote, etc. There is no fair clear vote anymore. I use to disagree strongly when the founding fathers for a time only wanted land owners to vote, but I am now in the camp. Our voting system has been corrupted and will continue to get worse. ww

Neither of our Senators nor... (Below threshold)

Neither of our Senators nor my Congressman are up this year. So we've been spared that. But we have nine constitutional amendments on the ballot. Eight of them are pretty straight forward, but one is so confusing that no one, and I mean no one, seems to understand it so I'm thinking a "no" vote is in order until they make it clearer.

Um, Oyster, check again: EV... (Below threshold)

Um, Oyster, check again: EVERY Congress member is up. They only get two-year terms. Yours can't be excepted.

J.

I think the Sununu Fannie/F... (Below threshold)
just me:

I think the Sununu Fannie/Freddie commercial is a good one-although I have only heard the radio version. I don't watch enough network TV to catch anything on TV. I haven't heard or seen any other Sununu ads.

I think Shaheen's "Sununu likes bush and votes with him" commercials are poor, and I don't believe for a second she will go to DC and hold down spending. I have heard several Shaheen ones though-they just all run on the same theme Sununu=Bush, vote for me.

However in many ways she seems to be the only one running-all summer long I did the parade circuit (comes with having family in a community band that does lots of parades) and Shaheen would have tons of supporters and crap in the parades-I think I saw Sununu's supporters at one parade.

I keep waiting for Sununu to look like he is running and so far he is running out of time-and I think in the end he is going to lose this race, which is a shame, because Sununu has been an excellent senator and I am going to end up with Shaheen and probably another two years of Paul Hodes.


In many cases, the Sununu-v... (Below threshold)
wolfwalker:

In many cases, the Sununu-vs-Bitch Princess ads look and sound similar to the McCain-vs-Snob ads because they're being produced by the same people. I've seen and heard very few ads in the Senate campaign that are actually coming from the candidates' respective campaigns. They're being done by third parties, like the Vermin Party and GOP's senate national campaign committees, or the national parties themselves, or independent 527-type groups. Each group has a chosen style, which they stick to in all the ads they put out. Thus, Group A's anti-Bitch Princess ad is going to look pretty similar to its anti-Snob ad, and Group B's anti-McCain ad is going to strongly resemble its anti-Sununu ad.

You're right, Jay. I realiz... (Below threshold)

You're right, Jay. I realized what I'd said as I was walking away from the computer. I'm a dope. I just have a lot on my mind right now. I've been called up for jury duty and it's weighing heavy on my mind. I wasn't lucky enough to get the "slip and fall" insurance case, or the downtown crack dealer case. I got selected for the first degree murder case. And it starts in about an hour and a half. I'm a bit nervous. Let me slide this time?

Always, Oyster. Always.... (Below threshold)

Always, Oyster. Always.

You blew it, though. You should have made sure they knew you read right-wing blogs and listen to talk radio. That is almost a guarantee to get you bounced by the defense attorney.

J.

You made a big mistake when... (Below threshold)
Judith:

You made a big mistake when you let the idiots from my state, MA, across the border. Yes we can is coming to your neighborhood with an ultra lefty senator and president....God help us all.

Here in Chicago, I don't th... (Below threshold)
bobdog:

Here in Chicago, I don't think they're having an election except for the coronation of The One. I have yet to see a political campaign ad for anybody, and that includes Obama. Not a single ad. I've seen a handful of campaign signs for some Democratic judge, but that's it. I don't even know if the Republicans are running any candidates.

I bet the Democrats are going to win all the Illinois races again. Ya think?

Jay Tea, I apologize ahead ... (Below threshold)
Eric:

Jay Tea, I apologize ahead of time for hijacking the thread.

Oyster, I served jury duty for the first time myself last Spring. The trial was a child molestation case in which the evidence consisted of his word vs. the word of an 8 year girl. There were no other witnesses no forensic evidence, nothing but the stories of the two.

It was amazingly hard to come up with a verdict. On one hand we could have let a child molester back onto the street, or we could have given an innocent man a life sentence as a sex offender. In the end we found him guilty after two days of deliberation.

The whole was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Early on the responsibility of the matter hit me like a ton of bricks, particularly since I have 3 daughters (2, 6 and 9 years old). What you see on TV never conveys how it really is.

The best advice I can give you is 1) take detailed notes 2) stay true to your convictions 3) be respectful of the other jurors.

First election in history t... (Below threshold)
Scrapiron:

First election in history that a known liar, thief and con man is the pick for POTUS and he'll pull every lying thieving anti-american democrat along with him.

Finally figured out what a 'community agitator' is. 'One who uses threats, lies and blackmail to get his way'. Funny he instructed ACORN on these tactics. Where did he learn them, in a racist anti-american church or from his Islamic (admitted) teachings?

If you didn't learn anything this week from the criminal/lying democrats in congress then there is no hope for you or the country.

Interesting observations Ja... (Below threshold)
P. Bunyan:

Interesting observations Jay. It could be that the advertizing is different because the Republicans and Democrats are targeting different types of voters. Perhaps the Democrats know that their voters aren't particulary deep thinkers so they keep facts out of their ads and just use simple things like "voted with Bush 90%...", whereas the Republicans trust that those likely to vote for them are more likely to be able to comprehend the significance of the facts.

I must have seen much diffe... (Below threshold)
Okami:

I must have seen much different ads than you, here in OR every dem. congressional ad has cited very specific things about the Republican Senator Smith has done that bothers them. And the Senator has responded with vague accusations about how votes the state congress made before his opponent was in office led to children who were raped not getting justice. Maybe Obama's ad team is doing Gordon Smith's ads?

The interesting thing about... (Below threshold)

The interesting thing about New Hampshire is that it may be the only state that John Kerry won that Barack Obama might lose in November. This might pick up some close Republican races in the state if they can ride McCain's coattails. A McCain win in New Hampshire is also the best hope for Sununu to pull out a win as well. The fate of these two in the state are similarly tied together. If one wins, then probably both will.

By contrast, Obama is looking stronger in Iowa, New Mexico, Colorado, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio and Florida than Kerry by far, giving Obama the potential of winning an electoral vote landslide topping 300+ votes if these trends continue and McCain does not reverse this trend.

In Oregon, an Obama win of around 9 or more points could sweep out incumbent Republican Senator Gordon Smith and tip the overall senate somewhat.

In Washington state, incumbent Democratic Governor Christine Gregoire is once again locked in a tight race with former janitor-turned businessman Dino Rossi and runs behind Obama by a few points. It will only be the coattails of a strong Obama win that may rescue Gregoire or not.

I don't know whether it's f... (Below threshold)
JFO:

I don't know whether it's funny or sad that you might believe that arrogant piece of tripe you just wrote Bunyan.

Remember it's you extremists from the right who howl to the moon about the effete, Ivy league, latte sipping democrats. Which is it jackass, effete Ivy Leaguers or just dumb dolts.

By the way your "deep thinker" reference obviously refers to people who are not old or white.

And you wonder why you're going to be whining and sniveling after the November election? Exhibit A, the Bunyans of the world.

You're always so ang... (Below threshold)
Clay:

You're always so angry, JFO. I'm increasingly concerned about your mental stability. Stop and smell the roses today, huh?

Hey, JFO, I happen to live ... (Below threshold)

Hey, JFO, I happen to live one town away from an Ivy League school, and have a LOT of dealings with Ivy Leaguers. I have YET to run into one real prick among them.

But it's odd that you choose to ignore the gist of my piece just so you can go off flaming Bunyan. Why, it's almost like you got all worked up over what I wrote, but couldn't actually refute any of it, so you just went off on Bunyan as a target of convenience because you had to yell at SOMEONE.

J.

JayYou're piece wa... (Below threshold)
JFO:

Jay

You're piece was just too damned dumb to comment on, since you asked. It falls into your usual pap about how fabulous republicans are. Oh, I forgot, you're an independent with independent thoughts. My bad.

Did Bunyan comment on your piece? Oh, I'm sorry he did. he said it was "interesting." A salient and astute comment - to you no doubt.

Your transparency, is well just getting more and more transparent.
Democrats = bad or wrong.
Republicans = good or right. As proof - that silly nonsense you just posted absolving them of responsibility for the financial mess. Your laser like logic? If Barney Frank is for it, I'm against it.

Bottom line, suck up to Jay Tea and his right wing view = good.
Anything else = bad?

Get it?

JFO -Seeing Barney... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

JFO -

Seeing Barney Frank was one of the architechs of the current mess, the "If Barney Frank is for it, I'm against it." line has a certain validity.

Sorry - but the Dems blaming the Republicans for this mess is a lot like a teenager blaming the car he just wrecked on his parents buying it in the first place - even though they've told him time and time again to be careful, even though he's gotten speeding tickets, and his license suspended once or twice.

You'd think that'd be a clue - but NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO - it's not HIS fault!

like a teenager blaming ... (Below threshold)
Clay:

like a teenager blaming the car he just wrecked on his parents buying it in the first place

Yep. It's the oldest attempt at deflection in the book:

But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, "Where are you?" And he said, "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself." He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" The man said, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate."

JFO:Nothing like a... (Below threshold)
apb:

JFO:

Nothing like a dumb-ass racist like yourself to leave a bunch of pig tracks.

As a conservative (NOT a republican) I treasure seeing what the annointed One will do with a Dhim Congress at his beck and call. Sure, we'll see the plants from the IL Dhim party put in charge; sure we'll see taxes skyrocket, and services falter; sure we'll see a bunch of invented new positions ready to take our money and produce NOTHING; sure we'll see a formal invasion of socialist tripe invade the already-incompetent education system.

Maybe, just maybe, that's the smack in the head the former 'independents' need to sober them up from their bender of helping put a worse-than-incompetent Dhim Congress in charge.

JFO:Are you that s... (Below threshold)
apb:

JFO:

Are you that stupid you can't draw the obvious conclusion that the Dhims that prevented oversight of Freddie Mac and Fannie May were bribed by campaign contributions from those same institutions?

Just wondering.

Actually you sound more lik... (Below threshold)
JFO:

Actually you sound more like a fascist apb.

And a loon.

Help me out here, folks.</p... (Below threshold)

Help me out here, folks.

I don't wanna take down the hammer, so could someone PLEASE cite the last time Just Fucking Obtuse had anything besides insults (that he probably doesn't even understand) to offer?

I'm starting to wonder if JFO is being paid to troll here. If so, he's definitely overpaid -- he never has anything new to say, just the same tired old insults and hackneyed cliche's and random gibberish.

J.

Looks around, considers JFO... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

Looks around, considers JFO...

Actually, Jay, I think he serves a...

Um. Well...

You know, I got nothin'. He doesn't address issues, he doesn't offer up anything constructive. Impervious to reason, disagreeing without trying to be agreable while doing so...

Nope, I got nothin'.

Sorry Jay - I can't think o... (Below threshold)
Paul Duffau:

Sorry Jay - I can't think of a single rational argument offered by JFO. Adiittedly I haven't hung out here that long, but he and a couple of others are on the "why bother" list.

They offer nothing substantive to buttress their opinions.

If everybody would just ignore him, you could wait and see if he just slinks out or escalates. I would expect the latter since it seems an attention getting device on JFO's part.

Comedy. or Traged... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Comedy.

or Tragedy.

At the very least, JFO lives in a world where the absurd is the rule, and honor is unknown.

I pity him.

Boy JFO, I guess I struck a... (Below threshold)
P. Bunyan:

Boy JFO, I guess I struck a never there.

My comment was just an opinion, a guess really, and it directly related to Jay's post. I was just speculating as to why the Dems and Repubs put together ads the way they do as Jay had observed. Race and age had did not ever enter into my thought process. Hell, I know a ton of Obama supporters who are the same race and age as I, but I would not describe any of them as "deep thinkers" either.

I one heard a quote that went something like "the sting in every retort is the truth"

Well, my comment wasn't a retort as such, but it sure appears to have stung you.

By the way, I won't be whining or sniveling (or need professinal help, for that matter) if Obama wins. I'll suck it up and go on with life. Hell, I'll actually benefit professionally as I'm in the business of providing aid to the poor and needy and business has been booming since shortly after the Dems won in 06. If they get all three branches of goverment after this election we'll be hiring more staff and reloacting to a bigger facility.

But I rather be out of a job...

Odin desires blood.... (Below threshold)
Clay:

Odin desires blood.

Paid to shill on the web?<b... (Below threshold)
SCSIwuzzy:

Paid to shill on the web?
Could JFO stand for "Jay's Firking Oliver"?

Bunch of nits.... (Below threshold)
JFO:

Bunch of nits.

"Just Forever Omniscient" (Particularly about the loony right.)

Just Freaking Obtuse... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Just Freaking Obtuse

That's an old worn out one ... (Below threshold)
JFO:

That's an old worn out one DJ. And far from an accurate description. Cynical, caustic, disbelieving, doubtful, scornful. Those all fit when I read some of the writings here.

Obtuse - not, many other things, for sure.


I calls 'em as you acts 'em... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

I calls 'em as you acts 'em, J-Fo.

I'm starting to wo... (Below threshold)
LaMedusa:
I'm starting to wonder if JFO is being paid to troll here.

Interesting concept, Jay, because that is the kind of thing I would say about jp2. Schmoozing and what-not to get a free pass just to hang around. Maybe hang around and then provide information that he received in an unethical way, and pass it on whether it was true or not.

He doesn't appear all that bright, but maybe he understands that "password" thing so well. Why else would he insist it's not really hacking? And what if a commenter started noticing a pattern with random phrases showing up in the comment section that resembled something from their own e-mail? Something to ponder, especially the unethical and possibly illegal aspects of how the information is received.

As far as whom you suggested, I don't think so.

"Which is it jackass, ef... (Below threshold)

"Which is it jackass, effete Ivy Leaguers or just dumb dolts."

Uh, both? One can hold a vast array of knowledge on a number of subjects and still not have a lick of common sense or understanding of human nature.

Jay, it's probably my fault for praising JFO not long ago when he seemed to be trying to communicate with a little more grace and used less vapid insult. Now I guess I'm not so surprised it only lasted a few days before it began to slowly degenerate back into his usual "you're a poopy-head" form. His skin is just way too thin for this blog comment business.

Jay, I thought bac... (Below threshold)
maggie:

Jay,

I thought back several weeks ago that JFO
finally got it, that civility is a great thing
in agreeing to disagree. I was wrong.




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