Friends can be so well intentioned, yet so dumb sometimes. I’m talking about these anti-Mormon phone calls in New Hampshire and Iowa. I suspect close friends of one of the candidates are behind the calls. It would not surprise me if a friend of Mitt Romney’s, thinking it’d do some good, was behind the calls. That’s not to say it was a Romney friend, but I think that is just as plausible as a Huck friend, McCain friend, Rudy friend, or Thompson friend.
I know some of you might think I’m crazy for saying that, but I say it based on personal experience. Back in 2002, when I was really getting into running races, a friend hooked me up with a Congressional race that needed a lawyer for the campaign. It was right up my alley. As the campaign went on, however, I found myself more and more in a management role and less and less in a lawyer mode — eventually having to get another lawyer involved.
Anyway, my guy was a small businessman and Baptist minister. We were running in an area of the country that is extremely religious with a large contingent on home-schoolers, many of whom were volunteering on the campaign. And we were doing well.
Finally one of the other campaigns in the three way primary discovered my guy’s vulnerability. He had affiliated, early in his career as a small businessman, with a very lefty set of Baptists. He himself was far to the right, but the lefties had helped him with his business. And so the opposition attacked. They pegged our guy so directly as a poseur that the home-schoolers and the church folks who loved my guy got really cold feet.
That’s where the friends come in. Luckily I caught it in time to shut it down as there would have been all sorts of problems, both real and potential. As we started going down in the polls and the attacks started increasing, these friends, who were the top contributors to the campaign and members of a loosely composed kitchen cabinet, decided to use autocalls to go negative — negative against my guy, their friend.
In essence, their plan was to throw every bad thing out there they could think of, outrageous stuff. Some would echo the attacks, but most would paint our guy to the far right — a position that would help him — while doing so would be done like it was the opponent attacking.
The plan was to throw all this stuff out there and make it sound really nasty, but, to the person called, they’d have one of two reactions, either: “Hey, that descibes my position” or “Good grief, that’s so offensive I think I’ll support the guy just to spite the folks going so negative.” The fringe benefit was that then the candidate, when confronted with the negative stuff, could use the “that’s old news” strategy coupled with the “this is what my desperate opponents are anonymously attacking me with” line. He’d also be able to embrace lots of the attacks proudly.
Again, luckily I found out about it and shut it down.
But that’s why I also think this is a friend’s doing. I think it could even be a well meaning Romney friend. It has that feel to me based on personal experience. Well meaning friends will do dumb things to help a friend in need. And sometimes they get to.
Now, my candidate? He went down in flames in a runoff. We were never able to counter the attacks credibly. He went on to get elected two years later and has since proven his conservative bona fides.