NRSC turning off Oregon moderates

Kevin Kamberg

Kari's post on Smith's desperate new ads reminded me of a couple conversations I had at work last week.

Our sort-of office manager - he's in charge of inside sales and handles all customer service calls - is a moderately conservative Republican, ironically also named Gordon, who reads The Moonie Washington Times every day during his lunch hour and who I'm 99% certain has long been at least a nominal Gordon Smith supporter. He's the only other person at work who is even moderately into politics, so we chat about local and national politics fairly regularly.

After the National Republican Senatorial Committee started running the following ad showing Merkley eating a hot dog, Office Manager Gordon asked me if I'd seen it. I replied that I hadn't but that I'd heard about it. So he proceeds to describe how pathetic it is with a very disgusted look on his face. He seemed genuinely embarassed of Smith for having run it. Smith didn't run it, of course. But that's a distinction utterly lost on this guy and, I strongly suspect, on the vast majority of Oregonians.

The next day one of the inside sales guys mentioned the same ad to me. He's always talking about his uber-Republican Grandmother that lives in Medford, but he's not really into politics himself. He votes but that's about the extent of his personal interest in politics.

So anyway, this inside sales guy goes on and on about how pathetic the NRSC's ad is... about how it was stunningly obvious that the video footage of Merkley eating the hotdog was used in an attempt to make Merkley look foolish... an impression reinforced by the close-up at the very end of Merkley stuffing the hotdog into his mouth.

By this point the other two inside sales guys were listening in as this guy slammed the NRSC's ad. So I asked all of them if they figured that most Oregonians would eat a hotdog like Merkley did or whether most would eat it all dainty like with knife, fork and lacy doily? That sparked immediate laughter at the word picture I'd drawn - I think it was the lacy doily image that really put them over the edge - and they all chimed in saying that everyone they knew would eat a hotdog exactly like Merkley had. Meanwhile, Office Manager Gordon was listening in and laughing right along with his guys at how absurdly silly that attempt to make Merkley look bad really was.

Mind you, I didn't initiate either of these conversations. They all know that I'm into politics and that I support Jeff Merkley. But I almost never initiate political conversations with anyone other than Office Manager Gordon. And he initiates as many of them as I do because it's a shared interest between us.

This all, of course, belongs filed under "Anecdotal" because that's what it is. But I submit that the NRSC shot Smith in the foot with that ad and that the wound will continue to bleed for the remainder of this election season. Many Oregonians will view these slimy new ads with a deeply skeptical eye because of how the hotdog ad was perceived.

[Editor's note: Post corrected. A previous edition referred incorrectly to the "RSCC".]

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    Ridicule is one of the tools always deployed by Republicans at this point in the election cycle, and Dems often find it distasteful.

    The fact that your anecdote ends with the whole group ridiculing the ad, is pretty much pure gold.

    With The Thirty Percent, views will not change, but a reluctance to be made fun of will be a great Mute Button, and allow us to point out absurdity to swing voters and invite them to be in on the joke.

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    I knocked on a Retired Army Lt Colonels door this past week. He stated that he had been a registered Republican all of his life, but he said you know what, "I just can't do it - I can't vote Republican this time - I'm voting a straight Democratic Ticket this time - plus I'm especially fed-up with the Gordon Smith adds". I spent more time at the door than I should have talking to him about the issues of the day but it felt so good to hear his take. I had an extra bounce in my step for the rest of my canvass.

  • Emily George (unverified)

    Interesting stuff.

    My own thought when I saw the hot dog ad was "this really makes Jeff Merkley seem like an ordinary guy, like ordinary Oregonians." Something that, alas, doesn't always come across in Merkley's own ads.

    Whatever points Merkley loses because he didn't immediately know the details about Georgia are totally outweighed by making him appear like a regular guy.

    At least that was my reaction.

  • RebeccaWhetstine (unverified)

    Thanks for that Phil. In recent conversation regarding tickets and choices with a conservative friend of mine who voted Bush all the way every time, he also told me the same, of at last being unable to go that way ever again. He mentioned that reasonable, personal-life conversations on our part had had an impact on him. The longterm aspects of life shared, friendship continued and the real discussion of events that have unfolded all mattered to his position change. This fellow has even left the Anglican church, as partly a symptom of his conservatism. It has changed his social life to abandon, at last, his dogged post as a "thinking conservative". He recognized how he'd been terribly manipulated as a believing conservative. He reports that of particular value to his shift was the revisiting of pivotal issues over time. That was a nice post from you.

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    Interestingly enough I happen to agree with you folks here. I know I know I am not supposed to say that and I know you guys will never say so if the shoe is on the other foot.

    However I am on several email lists and get email updates all the time and remember when this ad was emailed to me.

    I responded to the email that I thought it was a terrible ad and that even as a pretty staunch Republican I know what it is like to be on the campaign trail and how you have to catch a bite to eat when you can.

    I would not make an ad about how someone EATS, how they look or about their family. I mean there are just some things that are "people" things and people need to be allowed to be people.

    Merkley is campaigning hard and he was hungry. So he eats when he gets a chance. It is just plain silly to try to make fun of that. It is so much like something the Democrats would do. Catch someone off-guard and make hay out of it.

    After I fired that email off I got a response back (I don't even remember where it came from) that it probably would not run.

    Stupid for them to do it.

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    The hotdog ad puts Smith in an interesting position... or begs one rather large question, depending on one's view of the RSCC's intentions with the ad.

    A. Does Smith now expand his campaign theme of distancing himself from Republicans by now coming out with an ad portraying him as having worked cooperatively with the DSCC as a way to distance himself from the RSCC?


    B. Did the RSCC actually intend to punish Smith by releasing this ad?

  • Unreal (unverified)


    Watching you broadcast your ignorance in such a public fashion is always difficult when reading your posts, but the fact that you posted this without doing any research into the fact that the RSCC is non-existent organization is beyond uncomfortable.

    I can't believe Kari or one of your tens of fans didn't have the courtesy to correct you in the comments before allowing you to write "RSCC" three more times.

    NRSC - National Republican Senatorial Committee.


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    Undoubtedly the ad is much more warmly received by Oregonians who care whether it's NRSC or RSCC, lacy doilies and all.

  • Unreal (unverified)

    My comment was directly related to your laziness and lack of diligence in researching anything beyond the talking points you are fed by the Merkley campaign and your anecdotes tangentially related to politics. It had nothing to do with how the commercials are received.

    At least Carla and Kari do some research before they grab the shovels.

  • ryan (unverified)

    So, Unreal, what did you think of the ad? hominum.

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    Oh sure, it was lazy of me not to double-check it. The correct acronym is only marginally more relevant to the realpolitik of the ad than the background color of this blog, as I think the comment by Coyote makes pretty clear.

    So now that you've delivered the talking points of distraction spoon fed you by the Smith campaign, you can report back like a good little soldier and receive whatever brownie point such a pedantic task earned you.

    As a parting gift... Just think how many Oregonians have never and will never read this blog and who were nevertheless as disgusted and turned off by the ad as the guys I work with.

  • Gregor (unverified)

    Kevin!!!! How many times do we have to go through this!!!

    Unreal is NOT with the Smith campaign, he works for the SS ... ummm, NRSC ... oops.

  • Gregor (unverified)

    "After Russia invaded Georgia?" ... okay, has it ever been established who invaded who first?

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    Hey Kev -- I just corrected the post to include the correct acronym for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

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    Oh damn... I see that the acronym thing already came up in the comments. Oh well, fixed now.

  • LT (unverified)

    "laziness and lack of diligence in researching anything beyond the talking points you are fed by the Merkley campaign and your anecdotes tangentially related to politics."

    Unreal, let me tell you something very real, something which happened a long time before I ever heard of Jeff Merkley.

    In 1990, Denny Smith (having won only by a 707 recount the previous election) ran a couple of ads at least as brainless if not more so. His opponent was a wonderful man (old friend of mine) but very plain looking--Denny Smith said "not only is he liberal, he is hip!" as if that was the reason people should re-elect Smith.b

    Then he did a TV ad very much in this vein (What has Gordon Smith said about the Georgia invasion? My guess is he's been as silent as Smith was in 1990 about the Kuwait invasion) and the infamous "voice of Hitler" radio ad.

    Analysis after Kopetski beat Smith 55%-45% said one factor in the result was revulsion at the ads.

    And don't forget, in 2006, David Brooks cited "this would not be tolerated where I work or among people I know" as turning voters away from incumbents whose behavior they had come to despise.

    For all the talk that "negative campaigns work", there are some famous examples in Oregon where someone ran brainless commercials like this and not only lost the election but their reputation as well.

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    Yes, negative ads work. But that doesn't mean that all negative ads work. Voters consistently tell pollsters that the find hard-hitting negative ads to be more information-rich than fluffy positive ads - but that doesn't mean that they like all negative ads.

    The usual trade-off is that negative ads have a negative tone, but are loaded with specific information. When a negative ad has that tone, but doesn't have any specific information (or has information that's simply not credible) -- well, that's when voters reject them.

    The old Denny Smith "Voice of Hitler" ad wasn't credible. Similarly, the NRSC's hot-dog ad is merely taunting over style, rather than making a substantive and information-rich critique.

  • Eric Parker (unverified)

    "but that doesn't mean that they like all negative ads."

    I have never liked negative ads. even more so now with this race. My fiance (the one from Canada) saw the ads over her vacation here and quipped "I have better behaved children in my Day Care"

    These ads have made me consider leaving my ballot blnk for this race. Just because Incipid Smith is the incumbent or just because Milquetoast Merkley is a democrat does not mean they are entitled to my vote. the ads just show me how uptight you all are and that we would be better off with 'none of the above' for the senate. Leaving my ballot blank for this race is the best possible outcome because whomever is in the office is definately not very Christian in nature and will just follow the party way - not thier concience or constituents wishes.

    "negative ads have a negative tone, but are loaded with specific information"

    That information being that both parties and thier committes are actually regressed and uptight 6-year-olds who don't know any better than to be un-Christianly critical in their lives and thinking.

    Excuse me now..I have a bucket to be sick into...

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    In the words of one of Canada's most famous exports, If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

    The reality is that a choice not to vote, which is your unquestioned right, is effectively a vote for the incumbent - Gordon Smith.

  • LT (unverified)

    Personally, I think Merkley should have a heart to heart talk with Ron Wyden about Jan. 1996. There was a debate on whether to go ever more negative or to be the Ron Wyden his friends had known for years. The "100% positive" campaign decision was in the latter category.

    Still, there was a large 3rd party vote and someone at work challenged why I would have Wyden bumper sticker if I disliked negative ads, then said "Well, if he is a personal friend, that is different".

    And I agree with this--even more so in the presidential race: "...saw the ads over her vacation here and quipped "I have better behaved children in my Day Care"

    As someone who has spent many years working with kids, I won't vote for anyone if I've seen more mature kids--and that is not a partisan remark as there are Democrats in that category.

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    I just saw the commercial on NBC. It's playing during the football games.

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    <h2>LT and Eric -- would mind identifying the negative ad that Jeff Merkley's campaign has broadcast on television? Because so far, their ads have been entirely positive.</h2>

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