Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Attacks on Beau Biden Begin to Backfire

Not content to point out that Ferris Wharton has the edge in experience, the state GOP is generating a backlash with its aggressive anti-Beau Biden onslaught that includes the Website, a proposed contitutional amendment to make him ineligible to serve and a negative radio spot.
Over at Delaware Grapevine, Celia Cohen writes that the radio spot is generating a backlash among Republicans:
"Ferris Wharton is a great candidate, but help like this he doesn't need. Furthermore, Ferris is such a qualified candidate, he doesn't need to go negative in any way, shape or form. It could backfire big time," A. Judson Bennett, a Lewes Republican, wrote to his Coastal Conservative Network with its 3,800 e-mail addresses.
The embarrassment created by the negative campaign is compounded by the inability to find anyone willing to take responsibility for the spot:
It seems unclear exactly who authorized the spot. David A. Crossan, the Republican executive director, was involved in the initial discussions but was with his wife, who was having a baby, as matters proceeded.
Terry Strine, the state chair, said he was not hands-on for this one and would have preferred for the spot to be aired by an independent political organization and not the party operation, which has a broader responsibility than a single candidate.
The negative campaign could backfire in several ways. First, Beau Biden isn't unqualified; he actually has a respectable resume:
Since his graduation from Syracuse law school in 1994, Biden has clerked for a federal judge, worked for the U.S. Justice Department -- including a stay in Kosovo -- served as a federal prosecutor in Philadelphia and practiced law in Wilmington. He is also a JAG officer in the Delaware National Guard.
As more voters learn about his professional background, they will be turned off by the claim that he isn't professionally qualified. A high profile negative attack that lacks credibility tends to rebound against the attacker.
If the GOP were running ads claiming that Ferris Wharton is better qualified, that would be a different story. (For one campaign, I eschewed the argumentative phrase "better qualified" and used the euphemism "uniquely qualified" to describe my candidate.)
The nature of the attack could very well dull some of Wharton's luster as a career prosecutor. The vehemence of the attack on Beau Biden makes it harder for Wharton to portray himself as a career public servant, who has kept himself above the political fray. Either Wharton signed off on the negative strategy or he is allowing himself to be handled by anomynous political attack dogs.


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