July 27, 2006
There’s a brouhaha about Republicans leaving their party label off of campaign ads, implying that the (R) party label has become the political third rail. Nonsense. It’s always been the case that party labels are left off in states that generally swing one way or the other. Democrats in Colorado during the ‘04 election did not mention their party anywhere, even Democrats that ultimately won (like the Salazar brothers, one now a Senator and one a Congressman whose pitch letter appears here sans the “D” word). Bush was leading in the polls there, why would anyone draw attention to their party when it might only be a minus for them?
It makes sense to leave off the “R” word in blue states like Maryland or New York, maybe even in ‘purple’ states like Minnesota. But the swipe at Mark Kennedy, running for U.S Senate from Minnesota, doesn’t make a lot of sense. For one thing, his campaign ad is excellent. It’s funny, self-deprecating, and sends the message that he’s just a regular guy, an “independent” who doesn’t do what the party tells him to. And, as he’s running in one of those aformentioned “purple” states, why would he risk alienating voters turned off to labels?
Most annoying about this whole story is that every campaign season reporters treat it as new and unique that some candidates don’t use their party labels in their pitches to voters. Working, briefly, on a State Senate race two years ago, a now-fairly-prominent writer of NY politics hammered my candidate for having the word “Republican” appear only after “Independence” and “Conservative” party labels on his literature. Last year, the City Council candidate I worked for encountered the same problem, though mostly from the anonymous commenters on Politicker.
So go on and leave your party label off, Mr. Kennedy. And if you go on to win the election, govern exactly as you said you would. People are electing you, not your party registration.
Update: I found a pic of a John Salazar sign that I took while I was in CO. No mention of being a Democrat there either: