Friday, October 14, 2005

When Democrats Attack....Poorly

So Tom Golisano has switched parties and is now a registered Republican. He hasn't announced his run for Governor yet, but he hasn't denied it yet either. None of this is shocking.

What I find shocking is the immediate response by the New York State Democratic party. The state party, the their infinite depth and sagely wisdom, attacked Mr. Golisano right out of the gates, pointing out the chasm that has existed in the past between Golisano and the power holders of the state GOP. Here's a few nuggets of political hackery:

· In 2002, the Golisano campaign derided the State Republican Party as a “special interest slush fund” of Pataki. (Golisano Campaign Press Release, 10/26/02)

· During the 1998 Governor’s race, Golisano called Pataki's fiscal policies “insane” and said Pataki was “operating the state government like a compulsive credit card user.” (Syracuse Post Standard, 11/5/98; AP, 10/28/98)

· “I will not stand by and let Pataki, with his irresponsible borrowing, put New York State at financial risk while he tries to buy the election with taxpayer dollars and lays the groundwork for his own future, including a possible presidential run,” said Tom Golisano (Buffalo News, 10/1/98)

· Golisano accused Governor Pataki for increasing the debt, saying, “While the U.S. economy was robust, the Pataki administration increased its spending and increased the State’s debt… Now, with the world financial community nervous about its future and many economies on the downturn, is New York State in a position to weather a possible storm?” (PR Newswire, 10/7/98)

· During the 1998 gubernatorial election, Golisano criticized Pataki for ruining the state’s fiscal situation, saying Pataki’s “financial irresponsibility” was catching up with the state and had given New York “the second-worst bond rating in the nation.” (PR Newswire, 10/22/98)

· Golisano accused Gov. Pataki of opposing medical marijuana “because the governor’s campaign and the state GOP have taken over $220,000 from the pharmaceutical industry, which Golisano said could lose money in the sale of painkilling drugs if marijuana were legalized for medical use.” (Buffalo News, 10/17/02) Golisano said the governor’s opposition was “because he is in the pocket of the big drug companies who stand to lose money if medical marijuana is made available.” (New York Times, 10/17/02)

Talk about a huge miscalculation and a big mistake. First, I agree with most of what Golisano is saying. I understand State Democratic party Chair Herman Farrell is trying to illustrate the differences that Golisano has with his new party, but at the same time, that press release suddenly gives Golisano a lot of cross-over appeal to moderate Democrats, especially western New Yorkers with whom Golisano will be incredibly strong. This press release gave Golisano an opening to claim having political outsider status, outside special interests, and not being beholden to his parties power elite. This kind of thing will resonate given the dissatisfaction that most New Yorkers feel about Albany.

Furthermore, releasing this laundry list aimed at Golisano, before the heat of the Republican primary can even be felt, gives all the other GOP candidates cover to use this stuff during the primary. People keep track of who goes negative and begins throwing the mud. Now, everytime a GOP candidate brings the stuff on this list up, they can say "The New York State Democratic party pointed out...." They can tar and feather Golisano at will and mention the word "Democrat" in every attack. Image counts for a lot, especially concerning how a party handles a primary. By firing first, the Democrats may end up wearing the Black Hat that smore ofhave been worn by one or moreof the GOP contenders.

Additionally this looks absolutely embarrassing and petty. Let me explain more clearly. Going negative first in a campaign is a sign of weakness and lack of vision. I don't care if anyone thinks I'm a political romantic, candidates and their organizations should be so busy describing why they're running for office, they don't have time to waste talking about the other people running. To me, this says that the Democrats are scared of Golisano. And by attackinginadvertentlyly, they may have inadvertaaggravateswered him.

What agrivates me even more about this is how the Dems just dumped it out in the media as soon as Golisano switched signed up with the GOP. I understand they wanted to get their stuff in on the same news cycle as the party change. I'm sure someone at Dem Headquarters thought their laundry list of Golisano transgressions would be repeated in the media. Instead what they got for their efforts is a sentence or two concerning Democrats "attacked" Golisano.

Democrats attacked somebody for switching parties? Good job. That's a lovely image. I cringe when I see the words Democrats and attack in the same sentence. Too often it makes me think of fights involving hair-pulling and open-handed slapping.


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