The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

28 March 2009

NY-20 Special Election Features Anti-Limbaugh, Pro-Obama Mailers


Upstate NY Special Election Turns Into National Referendum

Coming to a ballot box near you: Rush Limbaugh vs Barack Obama?

A special election to fill the seat of former Representative Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has turned ugly, with Democrat Scott Murphy attempting to win the race by tying his opponent to Rush Limbaugh. At the same time, Murphy has touted a strangely understated Obama endorsement in campaign advertising.

Gillibrand has since replaced Hillary Clinton in the US Senate.

The result: a potential referendum on the popularity of both Rush and Obama, rather than on the qualifications of the candidates themselves in the upstate New York district. The election will be held Tuesday, making the past several days peak season for last-minute attack pieces.

At the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza is skeptical as to whether this approach can succeed:

A series of public polls suggest Limbaugh is a broadly disliked figure among Democratic base voters (no surprise there) but it remains to be seen whether that disdain will translate into a desire to turn out on a random Tuesday in March to cast a vote against a Republican House candidate.

In 2006 and again in 2008, House and Senate Democratic candidate effectively used George W. Bush as the bogeyman who scared their base into action. But, Bush was the president of the United States not a conservative talk-radio host.

The mailer provides an interesting window into a broader Democratic strategy to demonize Limbaugh for political gain. Will it work next Tuesday?

Though Republican
Jim Tedisco was far ahead in the polls several weeks ago, the race tightened as Murphy's hit pieces landed in mailboxes. Limbaugh himself believes Tedisco may have handled the manufactured controversy incorrectly:

RUSH: The Washington Post and every news outlet... I mean, it's all over the place. There's a special election in New York State to replace Kirstin Gillibrand, who's the conservative Democrat who was named to -- who? Replace who in the Senate? Hillary! Yeah. She was named to replace Hillary in the Senate. So her seat is up. It's a conservative district, and the Republican candidate, Jim Tedisco, was way ahead. He was up by double digits, and then he goofed up, and he said Rush Limbaugh is irrelevant to me. Then he had to backtrack on that and say, "That's not what I meant! I was talking..."

This is a local race and he said, and I'm tired of getting Limbaugh questions. So the Democrat has pulled even, and in the Washington Post: "Limbaugh an Issue in New York Special -- Democrats are seeking to use ... Rush Limbaugh to rally their base in advance of next week's special election in New York's 20th district. A new direct mail piece from businessman Scott Murphy's campaign features an angry shot of Limbaugh over the words 'I hope Obama fails.' At the bottom of the piece in parentheses is written 'Somebody wants you to stay home on March 31st....' On the back of the mailer, an Obama drawing is featured with text superimposed over it that accuses Rush Limbaugh and his lackeys in Washington of trying to be a roadblock to change America desperately needs."

My picture is all over campaign literature in New York's 20th district. Not the picture of the candidate. Not the picture of the Republican candidate. In fact, I've got screen shots here of the photos. I can show you on the Dittocam, those of you watching on the Dittocam. You can't read the text, but you can see there the literature. You see Obama, you see me and the so-called angry shot. What you do not see, what is not available in the e-mail or the campaign literature is anything the Democrat candidate stands for! The Democrat candidate doesn't give you one reason to elect him! The Democrat candidate is running ads saying that this guy on the Republican side is linked to me, that Limbaugh and his -- meaning Limbaugh and my -- lackeys in Washington are trying to see to it that you don't show up.

I have never in my life told voters of any kind not to vote! I may have told a couple people Election Day was not the day they thought it was. (laughing) Just kidding. I've never done that, either. I've never told people not to vote! Do you know what I think? I think this Democrat, Scott Murphy, is so lacking in character or qualifications that he has to use me as a diversion from his own incompetence. I'm going to tell you what, if I ever did run for office, and it's a long shot, folks, but if I ever ran for office, I'd run for office on me and what I think this country needs is me and why it needs me and what I'm going to do for the country and therefore you -- and this guy is running against me! And I'm not on the ballot.

During Friday's show, Rush featured Murphy's anti-Limbaugh campaign ad:

RUSH: Obama has endorsed Scott Murphy. The president will offer an endorsement. However, his endorsement and he himself will not appear in the ad, nor is his voice heard. Instead, there's a picture of him that is shown as the narrator says, "Upstate New Yorkers deserve somebody with the right skills to represent them in Washington. That's why President Obama is supporting Scott Murphy for Congress." So the teleprompter is endorsing Scott Murphy, not Obama.

The teleprompter is telling Obama and the people that write the ads, what to say. I don't care. It's a teleprompter. I don't care it's a 52-inch JumboTron or if it's two-winged... The teleprompter is endorsing Scott Murphy. Here's the ad.

ANNOUNCER (whispering): In the worst recession in a generation, upstate New Yorkers deserve someone with the right skills to represent them in Washington. (upbeat) That's why President Obama is supporting Scott Murphy for Congress! Scott Murphy is the only candidate with the proven business experience we need. As a businessman, he helped create a thousand new jobs upstate -- and in Congress he'll work with President Obama to spur investment and create jobs right here at home. For jobs and our future, vote Scott Murphy for Congress this Tuesday! (speaking rapidly) The Democratic National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.

RUSH: Yes. So there you have it. President Obama is supporting? Well, Obama's teleprompter is supporting Scott Murphy for Congress. So this race -- as the Democrats have shaped it, now, not me of course. But this special election to replace Kirsten Gillibrand, who has now replaced Hillary in the Senate, is Obama versus Limbaugh. This is not Scott Murphy versus Tedisco. It's Obama versus Limbaugh 'cause the Democrat is sending out leaflets suggesting that I am the real opponent here. And the reason they're doing this is 'cause they think that it will inspire the base, Democrat base voters in sheer anger to show up and vote against me. Again, Mr. Murphy, is apparently without the character or the competence to explain to people why he is the better candidate of the two.

From YouTube, here's the ad in question:

In the past, NY-20 was a solidly Republican district, but in recent years, that has not been the case. Tuesday's election is truly a toss-up, with the result likely based on which side can motivate its voters to make it to the polls. At the same time, its outcome could provide an important window into public sentiment, two months into Obama's tenure.

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  • Mr. Tedisco's tone suggests he hasn't listened much to Rush Limbaugh's program. Nor even the CPAC speech. Were he familiar with Mr.Limbaugh's words and ideas, he wouldn't have become tired being asked about them. As it stands, his lack of interest in our vital concerns may do him in.

    By Blogger susan mullen, at 30 March, 2009 00:32  

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