Skip to comments.Kanjorski alters campaign strategy (no more "blame Bush")
Posted on 09/02/2010 5:11:40 AM PDT by Born Conservative
As he sought re-election two years ago, Democratic U.S. Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski acted as if he had two opponents.
One was the Republican on the ballot, Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta. The other was President George W. Bush, who had turned as unpopular among voters as any president ever.
Many television commercials aired by the Nanticoke Democrat and a national Democratic committee strapped Barletta to Bush.
"They're like two peas in a pod, Lou Barletta and George Bush," speakers in a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee attack commercial said.
This year, the unpopular leader of the free world is President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and Kanjorski is trying a new tactic. Earlier and far more pointedly than in their 2002 and 2008 contests, Kanjorski is attacking Barletta's tenure as mayor.
The strategy parallels that of incumbent Republican congressmen in 2006 and 2008. They distanced themselves from Bush, touted their own performance and attacked their opponents' deficiencies.
"In 2006 and 2008, Democrats tried to nationalize the elections," said Stuart Rothenberg, editor and publisher of the Rothenberg Political Report, referring to the effort to make elections about Bush.
It worked as Democrats rode discontent with Bush to control of Congress in 2006 and strengthened their hand in 2008.
"This year, the teams just switched uniforms," Rothenberg said. "The national environment stinks for Democrats. ... This is a cycle when George Bush is increasingly irrelevant, Barack Obama is increasingly important. ... If you're Paul Kanjorski, you're going to want to make this about yourself and your Republican opponent, Lou Barletta, and you're going to try to rip him apart to show voters why he is an unacceptable alternative."
After taking shots from Barletta for more than a month after the May primary election, Kanjorski fired back on a July 1 WILK Radio program more sharply than his campaign had until then. He laid into Barletta's competence with more bite than he ever showed in their two previous campaigns.
In 2002, the mayor's management of Hazleton came up almost exclusively when Barletta boasted about it. In 2008, Kanjorski aired a television commercial criticizing Barletta for "pocketing campaign cash from developers dumping contaminated Philadelphia sludge" at the proposed site of an amphitheater the mayor has long touted. But that had little to do with the day-to-day running of the city.
With unemployment worse than during the pro-Democratic cycle of 2008, Kanjorski is trying to turn that against Barletta by focusing on Hazleton's troubles.
His first television commercial of the campaign, which began airing Friday, harps on Barletta's "ten long years of failure."
"Hiked Hazleton's property taxes 70 percent," the narrator says. "Income taxes went up 20 percent. Under Barletta, the city had the highest jobless rate in Pennsylvania. Times are tough for all, but the city is the worst run in the state."
Barletta raised property and income taxes by those amounts this year.
Shawn Kelly, Barletta's campaign spokesman, said the Kanjorski focus reflects Democrats' national strategy to deflect blame from a failed Democratic agenda.
"Democrats cannot run on their records, whether it's his votes for bailouts, health care, cap-and-trade energy legislation," Kelly said. "He doesn't want to shine any light on his record, especially the last two years. ... That shows you how desperate he is. Kanjorski has nothing to offer the voters of this district, no reason to re-elect him."
Kelly defended Barletta's management.
"Virtually, every municipality in Pennsylvania, particularly Northeastern Pennsylvania, every mayor, every city council, every borough council have had to make tough decisions," Kelly said, referring to the tax hikes. "They attack Mayor Barletta's management because of Kanjorski's support for the failed Democratic policies."
Ed Mitchell, Kanjorski's campaign spokesman, denied Kanjorski wants only to localize the election.
"We're going to talk about Social Security. We're going to talk about Bush and jobs and employment on the national level as well as the local scene," he said. "It's not going to be just a Barletta narrative."
He argued the campaign's focus is largely because Barletta's 10 years of mismanagement "came home to roost" since 2008.
"He shuffled things around for 10 years to not have to raise taxes and not to raise fees," Mitchell said. "If he had been more responsible and cut waste and cut costs, he wouldn't have had to do it. Now he had no alternative."