Thursday, June 28, 2007

Hillary Set to Go Negative

The Leftysphere is buzzing about revelations that Hillary Clinton's pollster is testing negative messages against primary opponents in Iowa. Daily Left put me on to the story as it appeared on Talking Points Memo. Among other things, the negative messages tested include flogging Edwards' $400 haircut.

Political consultant and newly minted Ohioan Craig Schecter weighs in with a body slam on Mark Penn, the Clinton consultant behind the attack strategy. Craig has worked with Penn and doesn't like him -- at least that seems to be what he is trying to convey by comparing Penn to anal leakage. He also refers to a Nation story about Hillary's advisers, including Penn. Here's a taste of that:

    It's difficult to tell where Penn's corporate life ends and his political one begins. Most Democratic consultants do some business work--it's the easiest way to pay the bills. Yet nobody wears as many hats--and advises as many corporations--as Penn. "Penn and Schoen have displayed a thirst for corporate work, often in conflict with the policy agendas of their political clients, that has long set the bar among Democratic pollsters," wrote Democratic pollster Mark Blumenthal on his blog recently. Furthermore, few Democratic consultants so consistently and publicly advocate an ideology that perfectly complements their corporate clients. Every election cycle Penn discovers a new group of swing voters--"soccer moms," "wired workers," "office park dads"--who happen to be the key to the election and believe the same thing: "Outdated appeals to class grievances and attacks upon corporate perfidy only alienate new constituencies and ring increasingly hollow," Penn has written. Through his longtime association with the Democratic Leadership Council, Penn has been pushing pro-corporate centrism for years. Many of the same companies that underwrite the DLC, such as Eli Lilly, AT&T, Texaco and Microsoft, also happen to be clients of Penn's.
And by the way, thanks to OhioDave for putting us all on to Craig.

This story speaks for itself, and Democrats should demand that Hillary answer for it. One interesting sidebar is how the internet makes life difficult for consultants working on the seemier side. The network of blogs pretty much guarantees that message polling will get a public airing, and that amoral mercenaries like Penn will be outed. How widespread the information gets disseminated will depend on MSM pickups and how effective opposing candidates are at using it.

Certainly any time Hillary uses one of these attacks, Edwards or Obama can sneer "You are only saying that because your big business consultant tells you to," or some variation. It doesn't end the attack, but certainly takes the edge off. In a week in which the Supreme Court appears on a glide path toward overruling any and all campaign funding regulations, it's good to know that at least some counterweights to the big money exist.