Skip to comments.Harris Needs Image Change to Win Seat
Posted on 09/17/2005 5:02:45 PM PDT by My2Cents
Harris Needs Image Change to Win Seat
By BRENDAN FARRINGTON, Associated Press Writer
Sat Sep 17, 2005
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - If Katherine Harris has any hope of beating U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (news, bio, voting record), she may need an extreme makeover.
The Republican congresswoman's poll numbers are poor; her appearance is a distracting issue; and many non-Republican voters see her as a flirty, vacant, beauty-queen wannabe who used her role in the 2000 presidential recount to get to Capitol Hill.
Most political observers think that she can make the race competitive, though, as long as she can shed that image.
"She's going to surprise people who think she's not going to do well," said Carol Weissert, a Florida State University political science professor. "I just hope it goes beyond whether she has too much makeup and what she wears. ... If she does talk about issues and she's able to put this aside, it may be a very different campaign a year from now."
The race is seen as critical to Democrats who want to regain control of the Senate. Republicans have a 55-44 majority, with one Democratic-leaning independent. There will be 33 Senate seats on ballots next year.
Other races are expected to be tighter, including Democratic efforts to oust Republican Sen. Rick Santorum (news, bio, voting record) in Pennsylvania, and Tennessee's election to fill Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's seat, but the Florida race will be closely watched largely because of Harris' infamy.
Fair or not, voters formed an image of Harris based on five weeks in 2000 when she oversaw the disputed presidential election as Florida's secretary of state. People know little about her four years in the state Senate and three years in Congress, but she's still accused of stealing the election for George W. Bush and her makeup is still the subject of late night talk show jokes.
So far, Harris hasn't done much to shift focus away from herself.
As she prepared to start her campaign, she claimed on a radio show that newspapers doctored photos of her during the recount a claim denied by news agencies. That rekindled makeup jokes, and Harris was skewered by newspaper columnists.
Largely because of those comments and the fact that she made light of the issue in her kickoff speech several major Florida newspapers devoted space to the makeup issue the day she began her campaign.
That night she was on Fox News Channel's "Hannity & Colmes" in an appearance many Republicans are privately calling an embarrassment and one that liberal bloggers have had a field day with.
She stood at an unusual angle for a television interview her body position and smile reminiscent of a beauty pageant contestant even as hosts Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes talked about how people have been cruel to her.
"Some people characterize it as flirtation and that's something that she probably would prefer not to have as her image," Lynda Lee Kaid, a University of Florida professor who specializes in telecommunication in politics, said of the interview.
While most candidates get a boost in polls when they have widely publicized campaign announcements, Harris lost ground in a Quinnipiac University poll. She trailed Nelson by a margin of 57-33 percentage points in a survey taken after her announcement.
Some of the blame has to go to Harris, observers say. She should be talking only about issues, not eye shadow. And instead of being flirty with conservative talk show hosts, she should put the focus on Nelson's record and her accomplishments.
"Voters will be willing to listen to what she has to say but if (her image) continues to be the one that it was in these incidents, she won't be able to beat Bill Nelson or anybody else," Kaid said.
Harris has three things that could work in her favor: time, money and good political advice.
She's expected to cash in IOUs after years of helping other Republicans around the country. And her political adviser, Adam Goodman, is the same person who helped her win two other elections when few people gave her a chance: a 1994 state Senate seat and the secretary of state position four year later.
"The campaign is all about taking the Katherine Harris story to over 90 percent of the Florida public who at best only knows a chapter or two," Goodman said, adding later: "she is the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party against a vulnerable Democratic incumbent in a state that is voting more decidedly Republican. You've got to love those odds."
Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin acknowledged that the race will be tight, predicting that Harris and Republicans will raise $25 million to $30 million to slam the incumbent. He welcomed a race that focuses on issues and accomplishments, and not image.
"Unless things get way out of hand with all the negative junk and he gets accused of being a terrorist or something, Bill will run a campaign that says here's what I've done and here's what my opponent has done," McLaughlin said. "I couldn't tell you one thing Katherine Harris has done in office or stands for or would do in the Senate."
I don't think she's running to gain the approval of the Associated Press.
Harris is running very poorly considering how high her name recognition is. I think the perfect storm of voters fearing one party hegemony, Bush's low approval rating and polarization will keep Bill Nelson in office if she wins the primary.
I remember that photo of her on the horse at some fair. Nothing wrong with her image there. Lucky horse!
Yep! Nothin' like AP advice to Republicans...
I've met Katherine Harris. She was nothing like portrayed her.
She was soft spoken, intellgent, and just plain "nice" She posed for us while holding a squirmy baby.
We came to visit her with a bunch of homeschoolers, and she took time to see us and spent time telling the kids the meaing of the great seal of FL.
She wore a very simple Navy bluse dress and was not overly made up. I was impressed with her.
and many non-Republican voters see her as a flirty, vacant, beauty-queen wannabe
Well dog my cats, non Republicans not liking a Republican. Now thats real AP style news.
The more articles like this that I see, the more I like her.
The saddle's luckier...
The MSM created this image of her as an over-made beauty-queen type, and they're trying to perpetuate it. If anyone needs an image make-over, it's the MSM.
"Image" is 99% of being a politician. That's a major problem with this country. That's why the Clinton's are always polishing their "images."
McLaughlin forgets she helped "unhorse" the freaking leftist FLA supreme court in 2000.
Who cares what she looks like? What are her stands on the issues? That's what will make her a winner.
Nice uh bbboots!
Her Boots are Firm and Supple, Like they should be!
There was a saddle? I don't remember any saddle:-)
Of course, the best looking demoRAT is Helen Thomas. Shall I post a picture (or 12)?
Why Not, It's the weekend!
Not that it matters, just curious.
Born April 5, 1957, according to one web site. Not great at math, but I guess that makes her 48.