Joined: 09 Aug 2006
Location: Jersey City
|Posted: Sat Nov 11, 2006 12:48 pm Post subject: One might say that Iím adding insult to injury. || |
|Menendez's campaign was like a tiger or a lion, supple and strong in action and reaction. The Kean response resembled a skinny alley cat rummaging through a garbage can. This was the statewide analog of the Manzo for Mayor of Jersey City 2004 dud. For those not familiar with the intricacies (and interstices) of Hudson County politics, Lou Manzo was one of a host of candidates running for Mayor of Jersey City in the special election after the death of Glenn Cunningham. The Manzo effort chewed through over two million dollars. The campaign inflated the Lou Manzo cult of personality while taking cheap shots at the other candidates. There was no promotion of ideas, no reasons given why Manzo SHOULD have been mayor. All this sound and fury yielded a solid loss.
In the same way, the Kean effort was not just bad, but extravagantly so. Basting in boobery, the entire process was a recipe for failure. The Kean group exhibited no respect for the opponent, the voters, or even their own candidate. A Conservative in a safely Republican enclave challenged by a George McGovern clone might have gotten away with the Kean campaignís game plan (or lack thereof). For a Republican running a statewide race (uphill), the error was fatal.
The foundation of any campaign is first do no harm. Don't throw away the chips you have when you sit down at the table. There was a VAST field of anti-Menendez sentiment in Hudson County. Not only was that acreage not cultivated, the Kean group sat idle as the Menendez campaign moved in and began to plow. There was one Hudson County Democrat whose support the Kean group sorely needed. Iím told that the Kean campaign offered NOTHING in return Ė not even the use of a car.
It was IMPERATIVE for the criticism of Menendez to be based in Hudson County. If people in Hudson County spoke out against Menendez, voters around the State would listen. Plus, those from Hudson County wouldnít take offense. This year, the road to DC ran through Hudson County. The Kean campaign missed the exit somewhere up in Sussex. By making the attacks Tom Kean's job, his handlers turned him into a mud wrestler. In general, Kean was portrayed as trivial -- if not spiteful. In particular, Hudson voters were irritated -- if not shoved to Menendez.
The amateur hour missteps didnít end there. Whose idea was it to criticize Menendez for testifying against Organized Crime? Was this an attempt to win over fans of The Sopranos? Did the same strategist come up with the Bobby J pen pal plan?
And why did Kean jump on the anti-alien bandwagon? What did Lonegan get by running on the cherished ideals of the Know-Nothings, lumpenproles and the Klan? Did Kean really need to reach out to the Stars and Bars crowd? Presumably, the cynical goal was to shroud a Hispanic candidate in a fog of xenophobia. And this was just one more Little Rascals ploy amongst many in a campaign shot through with heft-bereft stunts: stuck in traffic on the way to meet Cheney, vague criticism of the war, allegations of federal investigations (that soon wore thin), and seven year old tapes (that most found pointless).
By the summer, my impression was that Kean didnít have a chance; the contest was over. When the Sandoval and rental issues arose, I thought that perhaps I'd misjudged the situation. No such luck: Kean and company had taken yet another wrong turn. They were trying to transform the election into a boxing match. For this to work, what was needed was a knockout. When youíre in the ring with the champ, youíre not going to win on points. A fluky punch or two out of the blue (a la Chuck Wepner) might be good for laughs, but it doesnít buy the title.
Raising the Union City rental and the Sandoval tapes issues at the start of the fall campaign season was a complete mistake. In order to stun, either a steady stream of additional evidence and/or corroboration from law enforcement, witnesses, and/or experts was needed. Both the rental and the tapes are complicated topics. Most voters probably had no idea what was being discussed. The taped voice of Donald Scarinci talking to Dr. Sandoval at first shocked political observers in Hudson County. But, the great mass of people throughout the State very likely had no idea what the point was. The commercial really didn't rise above the level of electioneering chatter. One person in South Jersey who actually was following the race doesn't recall seeing the spot and still doesn't know who Donald Scarinci is. With no elaboration in the chute, the charges backfired. Many who were prejudiced against Hudson County politicians might have reconsidered when accusations grew old and cold, seeming to be without foundation. The Scarinci tape was a total boomerang. Donald Scarinci neatly sidestepped the puddle in the gutter by disassociating himself from both the campaign and his law firm. As Scarinci now had no official connection to the Menendez camp, he even got quoted in the news as if an independent observer. As the story developed it turned out that the tapes were seven years old, at the time Scarinci was Sandoval's attorney and authorities declared that there was nothing criminal. This Kean missile sputtered, fell to earth and then stuck in the mud without exploding.
One might say that Iím adding insult to injury. The truth is that insult is what this misbegotten campaign deserves for the injury that it inflicted on the Republican Party, Republican donors and Tom Kean, Jr. After all, thatís who was fooled, not the voters.
In any election, thereís going to be just one winner. The rest still have the opportunity to express their ideas. Also, a candidate can use an unwinnable race as an introduction to the voters for some future contest. There was no communication here of Moderate Republicanism, just obfuscation. The meandering blasts at Rumsfeld only served to add to the anti-Bush atmosphere. And how much harm did this ramshackle campaign do to the Tom Kean brand?
In reality, the race never was close. In Hudson and Essex, the Democrats' vastly superior raw numbers and GOTV mechanisms made that certain. Plus, Menendez isnít a warm personality Ė like a Reagan or a Clinton. Many will hesitate to tell a pollster that they are going to vote for Robert Menendez of Hudson County. But once the curtain closes in the voting booth, they found it easy to push the button. The big slice of Undecideds was a quirk of the polls, a mirage. As a win was not likely, it was a mistake to divert resources (that could have been used much better elsewhere) to this contest.
Several years ago, I saw Tom Kean, Jr. when he spoke to a small audience. He struck me as an intelligent, well-intentioned individual. Thatís not the portrait that his campaign painted across New Jersey.
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