In this year of expected Republican gains at the state and national level, I keep telling people not to get too cocky. In the general sense, the GOP is riding high only because the Democrats are doing so much to piss people off. The analogy I use is two magnets on a table with a marble in the middle. The Dems have flipped their magnet over and are actively pushing voters away from their message of big government, big spending and (coming soon) big taxes. The GOP needs to make sure that we are actively attracting the voters in the middle, rather than just being less repulsive than the other side.
In that vein, I was extremely disappointed to see Marty Seifert's latest attack on Tom Emmer. Full disclosure-I am an Emmer supporter, but I decided to support Emmer partly out of the fear that the party might endorse Norm Coleman. I found Emmer and Seifert to be pretty evenly matched, and I went with Emmer because he is a natural leader.
But over the last two months, the Seifert campaign has reinforced my choice by repeatedly attacked Emmer, rather than talk positively about Seifert. If you are a delegate or alternate to the state convention, you know what I mean. Every day or two I get an email from someone 'on behalf of the Seifert campaign' telling me something I should know about Tom Emmer. Most of these emails (and many of the ones I get from the Emmer camp as well) get deleted quickly, because there is only so much time in a day. But they do make an impression, and it is not a positive one.
While there is no problem with pointing out your opponents record and then explaining how your opinion or voting record differs, there is little tolerance in America for negative attack ads. And there should be even less tolerance inside a group of conservatives for personal attacks that do more to elect liberal candidates than anything else.
While we can all sympathize with Sandra Berg, who writes in her letter that she questions Emmer's judgment because of two past DWI arrests in light of a drunk driver seriously injuring her son and husband, I can't sympathize with her timing. Emmer's past has been public knowledge for over a year, yet Mrs Berg decided to mail this letter just a week before the convention? Am I supposed to reasonably believe that the straw poll results of the various congressional district conventions has nothing to do with this?
And aside from timing, the convoluted manner in which the letter arrived was disappointing as well. "From the desk of Sandra Berg", yet paid for by Seifert for Governor. Well which is it? If your message is that we need to be wary of Emmer's record, then make that your message-not the Seifert camp's message. There may have been perfectly valid reasons for doing the mailing as it was, but I can't help but be left with a feeling of politics as usual.
Marty, if you are reading this, please keep in mind that whoever wins, we need to be united next Saturday night. If your attacks on Emmer put you over the top for the endorsement but divide the party so much that we lose the governorship, then we all lose. If you win the endorsement, then I will be on board with helping you get elected from the first moment. But these personal attacks will make it harder for me to get excited about your candidacy.