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IL-Senate Campaign Thu Aug 06 2009

Giannoulias (Possibly) Does it Right

There were murmurs that the White House was backing Lisa Madigan for Senate over Giannoulias, despite the friendship between Giannoulias and the President, because of the questions the Treasurer's family's bank business would raise, and the connections to the President to be inferred. Well, if that was ever the case, call that person in the White House a genius.

Hannity is using the shaky connections of Giannoulias to Rezko et al to cast aspersions on the President. Now, it's not like it takes much to get Hannity to attack the President; Hannity is a human parasite when he's not a purring lap dog.

Giannoulias' campaign has responded with a Twitter post (I know, I know; a "tweet") linking to a Daily Kos diary debunking the Hannity allegations. My question is, why bother? It seems to me that we're headed for a Giannoulias-Kirk election, and in a state like Illinois, if you watch Hannity's show, you can barely bring yourself to vote for Mark Kirk, much less Alexi Giannoulias.

That's on the one hand. On the other, today's Democratic political campaign professionals increasingly come from a generation that cut their teeth in the 2004 Presidential, and the combination of the Dean smears in Iowa and the Kerry Swift Boat ads were extremely hard lessons: you cannot leave accusations un-addressed. Firm and rapid response to accusations is considered elemental in political campaigns, but is this the best way to do it?

The answer may be provided by a crew of academics, Norbert Schwarz, Larry Hanna, et al. In their clearly mass-market titled study "Metacognitive Experiences and the Intricacies of Setting People Straight", Schwarz et al, argue that the traditional "myth versus fact" model of public information fails because it ends up reinforcing myths as facts. People tend to retain the myths, particularly if they've heard them before. And the facts, because they tend to be long, drawn-out explanations, tend to be forgotten or confused. In any case, not retained. While the paper doesn't propose a specific solution, there is a general conclusion that in public information efforts, the myths should not be repeated, but rather the correct facts should just be asserted.

In his Daily Kos diary, Giannoulias doesn't repeat the myths--though he does include a link to the video--but he addresses each of the Hannity smears, addressing them by topic. Now this is on a website dedicated to "electing Democrats", so it wasn't exactly prepared for the general public. But if that's the case, why address it there, anyway? Hannity's viewers likely aren't voting for the Treasurer, and Kos readers aren't going to vote for Kirk. The intended audience could just in fact be the media, which might pick up the Hannity smears as a story in themselves and begin reporting on them. If that's the case, it may have been a better idea to simply have a one-pager prepared for distribution when the press comes a-calling, with links and citations. By tweeting and posting a DKos diary about, Giannoulias may be making it "a thing". For example, here I am writing about it.

The battleground for the Senate race, like the Governor's race, will likely end up being in Chicago's suburbs, where moderate voters have fled the increasingly right wing Republican Party. However, their newfound support of Democrats is probably not deep enough to keep them from splitting their tickets. Obama's popularity notwithstanding, one-party control of the state, and year after year of brutal budget fights in Springfield, have wrecked the image of a party that already labors under the specter of "Chicago Democratic Machine" of years past. Giannoulias wants to be careful not to be linked to that Chicago/Madigan machine. Giannoulias built some cred by bucking the Madigan choice and defeating the Party's chosen candidate for Treasurer, Paul Mangieri, in 2006.

It seems to me that Giannoulias' popularity will track well with President Obama's. The Hannity-style smears are focused on tying the Treasurer to the President on scandals that have either mostly been addressed or which didn't stick to the President last time around. If President Obama is still as popular as he is now in Illinois next year, Kirk will have trouble anyway.

In retrospect, Kirk's power play with Andy McKenna was unavoidable. If he had to survive a GOP primary by defending his right, he'd risk losing those suburban voters who find right wing rhetoric unappealing in the general. Without that fight, Kirk stands a much better chance of winning those voters over. But one personality who will not have an impact on that dynamic is Sean Hannity.

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Anon / August 6, 2009 1:38 PM

Or he posted it on Kos to rally the dem netroots people who think Hannity is the devil-incarnate.

Ramsin / August 6, 2009 5:43 PM

Well, Sean Hannity IS the devil incarnate, to be fair.

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