Thursday, May 6, 2010

Closing In...Fast

A poll this week has Joe Sestak just six points behind Arlen Specter.  Sestak has come an awfully long way.

I love talking campaign strategy.  Specter went negative early and often.  One would suspect he was trying to bury Sestak, who was far behind in the polls at the time, before the Sestak campaign had a chance to gain traction.

The tactic might have backfired.  Specter was seen as picking on a retired U.S. Navy admiral.  People hold the military in high regard, especially in these terror-ridden times.  Specter's ads found other Sestak related targets, in addition to his military record.  Was it too late?  Was the damage to the Specter campaign already done?

I can't wait to see the way this one plays out.  Specter was first elected to the U.S. Senate, as a Republican,  in 1980, but this is his first election since last year's switch to the Democratic party.  Specter has the backing of the party brass.  Vice President Joe Biden made an appearance on Specter's behalf last month.  People at the scene said attendance was low, and enthusiasm was lacking.  Have the Democrats accepted Specter as one of their own?  There's considerable evidence to indicate the answer is "no."

As has been discussed here many times in the past, candidates and their consultants go negative for one simple reason.  It works.  It's not a blanket endorsement of negative ads.  Far from it.  Negativity has to be used selectively and carefully.  Specter does have his share of positive ads.  I think the one where laid off Bethlehem Steel workers talk about Specter saving their pensions is great.

At least right now, Sestak is failing to exploit the biggest thing he has going for him, in the minds of many in the Democratic party:  He's not Arlen Specter.