Sunday, November 26, 2006

Negative blowback finished Allen

Although three weeks ago it might have seemed that Virginia’s political blogosphere only existed to promote or attack candidates, now its purpose appears to have enlarged to touch on a range of topics. For instance, now it is a place for organized partisans getting ready for 2007 to discuss strategies, plan brighter futures and recruit.

Alas, it has also become a place for those so inclined to gloat, or to wag fingers of blame. There’s been no shortage of either.

While perusing the posts on the Virginia Political Blogs, the quite useful blogs aggregator web site, I’ve learned from a few boasting bloggers that in their semi-unbiased view, it was their own too-cool-for-school blogs which were chiefly responsible for certain Nov. 7th victories. Imagine that...

And, I’ve also read that Senator-elect Jim Webb won -- collapsing a perceived 16-point advantage by his incumbent opponent -- because of his outrageously negative campaigning, which painted Sen. George Allen as a longtime racist.

No, I am not making that up. Try it for yourself, if you care to click on the link above, commentary amounting to such should not be hard to find. Every day since the election there have been several posts along that line available at that web site.

In my own view, what I saw was that Allen lost more votes owing to the bitter blowback from his own negative advertising than anything the Webb camp ever did to him. And, on this point I must put a special emphasis on the last-ditch attacks on Webb’s writings as deviant and misogynistic, which ran incessantly on television during the last week of the race.

Nearly every credible/independent anaylsis I read in the week after the election mentioned that factor as telling.

On top of that, it should be noted that the damage to Allen from his Macaca Gaffe started with his own sloppy mouth. Yes, Webb-supporting blogs helped push the story, but it became a news story with long legs because it was the first thing of its kind -- a YouTube suicide by a thought-to-be unbeatable candidate.

Furthermore, that YouTube video revealed a side of Allen the public hadn’t seen before. Not so much a “racist,” as it was a “bully.” Afterwards, the Allen team’s damage control was so bad it should be studied by both parties as the way NOT to do it.

In a matter of a few weeks, Allen’s image as an aw-shucks, good-guy -- a Southern gentleman -- was in flames. Then, after the comedians on TV got through with casting Allen as the bumbling bully, all that was left of his carefully cultivated political persona was ashes.

In truth, once the cat was out of the bag Webb’s camp and his bloggers didn’t have to do much. The story line was already out there -- it had to do with an incumbent who stumbled, lost his momentum, and couldn’t get it back. That story, which no doubt hurt Allen, was reported relentlessly by the mainstream media during the stretch run.


Because it had serious national implications, and because it was funny. “Macaca,” a word Allen claimed to have made up himself, is a funny-sounding word. For a punch line, the late Lenny Bruce would tell us the “double-k” sound is primo.

For Republicans, whether they are blog writers or blog readers, to continue to believe that George Allen lost to Jim Webb, because Webb went negative on Allen, is preposterous. Those clueless enough to buy into that fantasy probably also think former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore has a bright future as a GOP candidate.

Hey, don’t laugh, Gilmore is working like a little beaver to resurrect his political career as you read this.

Well, I’ve got some news for such pachyderms wallowing in denial -- Virginia’s donkeys will be as happy as hee-haw to see you run either Jim Gilmore or George Allen for statewide office again.


Anonymous said...

you are correct, the video showed (ever so effectively) what many of us know about Allen...he's no good ole boy, but rather a common bully.

Racist? maybe, I mean what good ole boy doesn't drop a "N-bomb" every now in's a bad thing, but it doesn't make you a charter member of the KKK either...

But picking on someone who is defenseless...the look of rage and anger in Allen's eyes says it all...only a bully gets that pissed over something so trivial...

Triscula said...

I also think that, after that side of his personality was revealed in the 'macaca' video, all of his subsequent attacks on Webb just looked like more bullying. They simply amplified the perception that the macaca moment created.
Everything he did to try to hurt Webb just turned into more 'macaca' on him.

K said...

I totally concur in your "Allen suicide-by-YouTube" analysis.

I wish I could say Jim Webb actually "won" this election, but it's more correct to say that Allen lost. It was only once Allen stepped in it that Webb started getting attention and, more importantly, big money, the latter of which allowed ever more advertising to show Virginia voters a candidate who was a viable alternative to Allen.

Oh, and one other thing: Virginia bloggers had little discernible impact, except among themselves. Most of them need to open a window and get a wider view.

spankthatdonkey said...

Not over at STD, Terry... I may not be the sharpest knife/club in the drawer, but at least I stick to my issues :-)

Allen committed suicide by not being the candidate who can be trusted to be a Conservative...

I think it can well be argued that Allen "turned off" past voters who wanted the same candidate they had been voting for...

and it wasn't like Webb was out there giving "moving stump speeches"... geeeshh.. Five minutes tops, and his people were giving him the stop sign... now let's hear from an actual Liberal Here supporting you :-) (McEachin, Wilder etc)

Isn't that really the truth? You guys have elected yourselves a Democrat "McCain"....

If the rank and file Dem were "dialed into" Jim's 2nd Amendment views... it would have been very much like Allen describing how "Pro Choice" he was to his base.

The point being... Harris Miller should've really driven that home, and I never saw that discussed with any intensity in the primary...

Heck, I didn't bring it up, I posted that I wanted a Jim Webb as the Dem candidate early on, to help Allen fight it out with a real candidate.... (in hopes of 08)

Opps, my guy "shot hisself" in the foot, and I got the best Dem. canidate I could have hoped for, a Republican :-)

Enjoy your McCain... It should prove most entertaining.. already there is lament on S 4057, and the man isn't even in his Seat yet...

Jon Henke said...

The contribution of bloggers is generally misunderstood. The value bloggers add is not in GOTV or in informing voters about specific stories. It is far more complicated -- and far more subtle -- than that. What bloggers do after a story develops is sometimes helpful, but what they do prior to a story is most important.

Bloggers had a very significant impact...not just in Virginia, but nationwide. Unfortunately, relatively few people commenting on the impact they had (pro or con) really understand the role they play.

F.T. Rea said...


Good point.

Jon Henke,

Thanks for commenting. While I don’t disagree with you, I must add a thought or two:

In my view the blogosphere is made up of such divergent elements that making generalizations about its nature and its capabilities is a dicey business.

To me, most bloggers assume that most other bloggers are like themselves. Yet, some of the people who post regularly on politics are doing so only to trumpet a party line. Others are just trying to be in on something, and play with gossip. While others write about politics regularly in a broader sense.

Then there are those bloggers who write about the popular culture, or their cat, and only delve into political matters when the spirit moves them.

So there are writers who blog, there are bloggers who write, and there are bloggers who mostly cut and paste.

In my case, while the comments to my posts usually come from political bloggers, I know that a healthy portion of my readership remains local -- they are folks who have been following my work for a long time. So, while I aim some of my posts at my fellow bloggers, they are not usually my primary target.

Hey, I’ve seen political bloggers who will tout their own influence and notoriety with one paragraph, only to claim bloggers have no impact on the general public -- if it suits them to say so -- in the next paragraph.