Friday, March 23, 2007

Brett Hall Continues Randomly Hammering Northup

The law of unintended consequences manifests itself in strange and unpredictable ways. The McCain-Feingold Act, for instance, created a campaign finance monster its backers said wouldn't happen. So, now we have more unrestricted political committees than ever versus the reform that was promised.

Comes now Anne Northup, backed by two U.S. senators, no less, thundering into the Republican gubernatorial primary with the goal of marginalizing the incumbent. What she's accomplished is something quite the opposite: energizing Gov. Ernie Fletcher.

I've run into a few doubting Thomases when sharing this observation. All I can say is, the governor is one tough character who will get back up on a horse time and again, no matter how often he's been thrown. Just ask Greg Stumbo.

No, what the Northup campaign has accomplished with all their negativity has been to galvanize the incumbent to the point that he is on a mission with all the focus one candidate can muster. You can see it in Fletcher's impassioned delivery of his campaign message, his laser-like fund-raising machine and his 24/7 public schedule.

As Al Cross wrote in his Sunday Courier-Journal column, Northup has a spotty public schedule probably due to the fact that she's tethered to the phone raising money. Not a good sign for any candidate this late in the campaign to be so preoccupied with finding money.

Fletcher's advertising blitz, his personal appearances throughout the state, combined with his skillful use of the governor's office - both bully pulpit and other tools at his disposal - add up to a candidate on the move. It's telling that not once has the governor broken his 11th Commandment vow to utter an unkind word about either of his primary opponents. Heck, he's even been kind to most Democrats. It's apparent that Fletcher doesn't need to go negative at this point as the reelection campaign has been moving along in a steady progression.

Regarding Anne Northup, at this point with some two months to go until Primary Day, she may well be wondering how in the name of the Grand Old Party did she ever let herself get talked into this race.

She could very well have rested on her considerable laurels as an accomplished member of congress. Northup did get reelected consistently in a tough district. The political climate of 2006 throughout the nation was about as bad for Republicans as any time since the 1974 mid-term debacle when the party lost 48 U.S. House seats. The voters chose a man of far diminished qualities, but, hey, stuff happens in politics.

Last year was an emotional year for Northup, both politically and at home. No one can know the level of sorrow she and her family endured in the loss of her son and father. So, it came as a surprise that she would venture so late in the game in a primary fight for governor - against an incumbent.

As much as anyone, Ernie Fletcher knows what it's like to have a string of bad days, given the Stumbo over-prosecution. As a result, the governor has observed with a certain detachment the slams and arrows fired his way by the ex-congresswoman from Louisville.

Not taking her attacks personally, Fletcher has used them to his advantage as a reminder that nothing can be taken for granted and the general election will require an even greater effort in order to win. The contrast between the two has been remarkable as the focused Fletcher compares well to Northup's attack mode.

Lexington last Saturday night was an excellent venue for Fletcher, where hometown friends warmly welcomed their governor at the 6th Congressional District Reagan Day Dinner, giving him sustained applause just seconds after Northup unleashed a blistering attack on the incumbent.

"Who on her campaign staff told her to give that speech in this venue tonight? Someone's got a tin ear for such things," they said.

"You don't go bashing a candidate, especially a governor, in his own hometown. It's artless and makes one appear petty, ham-handed. If you really want to disarm a guy like Fletcher, praise him on his home turf but give the audience an idea of what you'd do if you were in his shoes. How you would be a better leader. That she didn't do tonight, and it was a golden opportunity to do so."

But, as Northup likes to say, Republicans will all join hands and come together in one big grand old love fest the day after the May 22 primary, girding their loins for the real fight in the general election phase. That will be one picnic not to miss.

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