op-ed

Campaign porn

Curt Anderson Partner, OnMessage Inc.
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The recent Daily Caller article “Pawlenty staffers point fingers of blame at Nick Ayers” was, well, a sad thing to read.

I have no knowledge of what transpired in the Pawlenty campaign. Of that I am very grateful. It is entirely possible, maybe likely, that some of the criticism of Nick is merited. I don’t know. I don’t much care.

But I do know many of the “players” involved.

It was always going to end this way, of that I was certain.

Pick your axiom — “you lay down with dogs and you get fleas,” “there is no honor among thieves,” etc. They all apply here.

Here are the facts: It was a campaign that didn’t work, at any level. The candidate did not connect with voters, the campaign strategy was poor and the execution of the strategy was lacking. Thus, the campaign never took off.

It is reasonable to assume that the merry band of folks who plotted and placed this story are all atwitter about it. They’ve no doubt been high-fiving over it and emailing it to all their friends, which shouldn’t take long.

But I ask you to think about this for a minute.

We all have the innate desire to see ourselves exalted and, like it or not, we’re all tempted to do so by tearing down others. The truth is, we have all done it, but it is fool’s gold. When you attempt to elevate yourself by tearing down others, you reveal the weakness of your own character. This is what the Pawlenty staffers and consultants who have engaged in this pitiful exercise have done.

Now, for a little secret: Most of us in Republican politics know the identity of the perpetrators in this drive-by assassination.

It is possible that they are naïve enough to believe that this will help them in some way, that they can now hold their heads high, saying, “We would have won if it weren’t for that awful Ayers kid.” They undoubtedly think this will absolve them of all responsibility for the loss. It will not.

What it will do, however, is remind the rest of us never to get involved in any campaign with them.

One would think this is not necessary but it apparently is, so here is a primer for good behavior when your campaign loses:

  • Shut up. You lost.
  • Be gracious in defeat.
  • Air your dirty laundry in person, not in the press.
  • Protect your candidate.

Politics doesn’t need to be dragged any lower by spineless, anonymous attacks from people who are understandably ashamed of putting their names on this kind of whining. The truth is, it was a little bit like pornography — some may enjoy reading it at first but it leaves everyone feeling dirty.

Curt Anderson is a Republican strategist and a partner at OnMessage Inc., a GOP media and polling firm. He co-wrote Gov. Bobby Jindal’s book “Leadership in Crisis.”