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Democrats Seek Atwater Style ‘Boogie Man’

September 17, 2010

Famed Republican political consultant, and former Republican National Chairman, the late Lee Atwater, popularized the strategy of tying a “boogie man” to a political opponent.

Lee was often criticized for these hardball tactics – although today his philosophy is mainstream, and used by both Republican and Democrat candidates and strategists.

Atwater theorized that it’s much easier for voters to identify with the negative aspects of the opponent, if a mirror image of that candidate, in the form of a “boogie man”, could be found. He knew voters were less likely to vote for someone if they didn’t like his/her political philosophy and Lee thought holding up a “boogie man” was the best way to showcase those negatives.

Republicans have always painted Democrat candidates as very liberal, and have tried to associate them with someone voters already know to be liberal, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, or Senate Leader Harry Reid.

Democrats have done the same thing by associating Republican candidates with the right-wing policies of former President George W. Bush, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, and now, the national tea party movement.

President Barrack Obama broke tradition this year by criticizing President Bush’s policies, and blaming the country’s ills on the former President. The voters have turned this message off as President Bush has been out of office for nearly two years now.

Thus, the latest “boogie man” the Democrats are trying to establish is Republican House Leader John Boehner of Ohio, the likely new Speaker of the House, if Republicans capture enough seats in November to take over the majority.

They are also setting up Christine O’Donnell, who upset Congressman Michael Castle for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in the state of Delaware, as being too extreme for independent voters.

President Obama has gone to great lengths to raise the profile of Congressman Boehner by constantly criticizing his positions. You can look for the established  mainstream media to help the President in this effort.

Among other things, Congressman Boehner is being criticized for setting a bad example for kids by being a cigarette smoker, and someone with close personal ties to the Washington lobbying community.

President Obama traveled last week to the Republican leader’s home state and criticized the congressman him for a lack of new ideas to get the economy moving again. Democrats are running television ads designed to paint Boehner as someone who favors tax cuts for the super wealthy, and is against the “little guy”.

Many are saying that Republican Senate nominee O’Donnell is too far-right-wing for independent voters, and is being portrayed as the same kind of ultra far-right candidate that tea party activists are nominating in other states.

This is a good strategy for Democrats, and may help them fend off the Republican landslide that many are predicting. It changes the debate away from the unpopular policies of President Obama, and keeps the focus on Republicans, which can only help Democrats.

The fact is Democrats need to change the political landscape, and finding a “boogie man” is the right campaign strategy. It is ironic that Democrats have stolen a page from the campaign playbook of former Republican National Chairman Atwater, a strategist they often criticized for using this same tactic.

Lee would find great humor, and irony, in this twist of fate.