Blame game an effective election tool

It’s not exactly a new political strategy which you can best describe as “guilt by association.”

For years both Michigan political parties have tried to siphon votes away from one candidate by linking him or her to someone else who is insanely unpopular with the voters.

Democrats linked former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich to Republicans who were running for the Michigan Legislature with the hopes the Gingrich attacks at the time on Social Security would tarnish those House candidates who, by the way, had nothing to do with the issue. That didn’t matter to the D’s. Mr. Gingrich had scared a host of senior citizens with the Social Security gambit and since those folks vote in large numbers, it was worth the gamble to scare them into voting for Democrats.

Republicans did the same thing trying to link house Democrats who voted for the Gov. Jim Blanchard 38 percent income tax hike. The R’s blanketed the political landscape with pictures of the governor with those Democrats who voted yes. The brochure asserted that Blanchard, and fill in the blank with this lawmaker or that, were the “tax increase twins.” And the effort almost cost the Democrats control of the Michigan House.

Now comes Democrat Gretchen Whitmer running for governor and Republicans are already trying to connect her candidacy to former Gov. Jennifer Granholm under the heading, “she is just another Granholm.”

Critics of this strategy suggest it is sexist but candidate Donald Trump did lots of alleged sexist things during his candidacy and lots of female voters didn’t give a hoot not to mention some male voters who loved it.

Critics contend the strategy is also apples and oranges in that Ms. Whitmer has more legislative experience than the newcomer governor Ms.Granholm had so there is no comparison.

Yet the criticism won’t stop the GOP from trying because in a close election, if it works, it’s worth taking the heat for doing it.

First of all the strategy is not aimed at persuading Democrats to abandon the former Senate Democratic leader if and when she gets the nomination. Democrats who are with her will be there regardless of what the R’s do.

EPIC-MRA pollster Bernie Porn concludes the linkage, rather, is aimed at ginning up the GOP voter turnout. He figures if the Republicans can tap into the Jennifer Granholm negatives it will be stronger motivation to vote against Ms. Whitmer.

And even though Ms. Granholm’s most loyal followers may not like it, the polling data suggests she left the state, and went off to California to be with her parents, without a lot of warm and fuzzy goodbyes.

She departed with a 68 percent negative job rating and a 58 percent unfavorable opinion.

David Katz, her former campaign manager, debunks that stuff saying, “she was an outstanding governor and a political warrior and if she ran again, she would win again.”

Republicans couldn’t disagree more which is why they’ll try the linking of Ms. Whitmer and Ms. Granholm.

Almost from the first day of her candidacy, Ms. Whitmer knew this was coming and fluffed it off as nonsense. On the stump the comparison does come up and her retort is blunt: So you would rather have a man (like a Brian Calley) who is linked to Gov. Rick Snyder? Who by the way is not the most popular guy in the state either.

Mr. Porn theorizes that if the R’s go after Ms. Whitmer, the D’s could retaliate.

“The Democrats could come back and link Bill Schuette or Brian Calley to Donald Trump.” He thinks in the midst of the troubled Trump White House with 42 percent of the people thinking he should step down, the Democrats could run ads pointing out Mr. Trump’s prat falls and asking the question: Schuette and Calley have said nothing about that. Is that leadership?

The reason this strategy is so popular with the consultants is that it has nothing to do with issues which are often complex and many voters get lost in the explanation. But a quick and dirty TV ad, with unflattering pictures of the candidate with someone else whom voters don’t like, is easy to comprehend and conveys a message than even a fourth grader would understand.

So let the guilt by association commence.


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