Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Whack-A-Mole, Pick-A-Vote

What gets your dander up more?
A vote against a tax credit for married couples with children.
A vote against rescinding tax breaks for oil companies.
This is the setting for the opening game tit-for-tat between the two top candidates for Governor, Democrat Jay Nixon and Republican Kenny Hulshof.
Yesterday, Nixon began airing a new campaign commercial criticizing Congressman Hulshof for U.S. House votes that benefited oil companies. Wednesday, the Hulshof camp hit back, digging up certain roll call votes included in the bigger bill Nixon is referring to.
It's confusing for voters, and clever politics.
For instance, Nixon points to a roll call vote in February, where Hulshof sided with oil companies. Hulshof spokesperson Scott Baker replied Wednesday by offering up another portion of that vote -- a vote to extend the Marriage and Child Tax Credit.
"According to his own television ad, Jay Nixon opposes extending the very popular Marriage and Child tax credit," said Hulshof's Baker.
Baker goes on to point to a criticized 2003 vote, which included sections that would have made it easier to explore for oil on the Outer Continental Shelf.

"According to his own television ad, Jay Nixon opposes efforts to increase our supply of domestic energy," Baker said.

"The more he communicates with voters, the more Jay Nixon reveals his extreme liberal leanings. He can’t help himself,” said Baker.
"Every time one of Congressman Hulshof’s opponents, whether it’s Jay Nixon or Sarah Steelman, has drawn attention to his Washington record, the Congressman immediately says we just don’t understand Washington like he does. Fair point. Congressman Hulshof is certainly more fluent in Washington talk than the rest of us, but that’s not a valid excuse for him to avoid defending his votes. When will Congressman Hulshof stand up and defend his Washington record?," said Nixon spokesperson Oren Shur in a statement, responding to Baker's response.
Sensitive from Sarah Steelman's ability to control the message of the primary campaign, it's clear that Team Hulshof is trying to divert attention from the oil tax breaks and turn the issue around for Nixon to answer. This is the problem with a Congressional record, though. It's long. There's lots of votes to pick through. The best way Hulshof can take charge of this campaign's themes is to make it about the issues going forward as Governor with specific plans. That will force voters (and journalists) to spend more time weighing the two candidate's plans going forward, instead of past votes.
As a long-time statewide official, Jay Nixon has a long record record as well. And going down this road could a lead to lots of back and forth about things that happened five to ten years ago. Along the primary trail, a common complaint from undecided voters was that Sarah Steelman spent too much time talking about Hulshof's past -- and not enough about her own plans for the future. It might have hurt her marginally. Records are relevant topics, but if the past is what solely drives this campaign through November, the voters won't be as properly equipped to choose between Nixon and Hulshof as they could be.

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