Voter Revenge

Newly elected Rep.

Newly elected Rep. Tom Rooney (FL-16) is being targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) for not supporting the president’s stimulus plan. For a week this month Rooney, like select Republicans across the country, has been the target radio ads, robocalls and emails to voters. What makes Rooney’s targeting questionable is the case of Charlie Crist.Gov. Crist remains extremely popular with Floridians, and his favorability numbers are high—except with the Republican base. Crist is seeking the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Mel Martinez, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) would be happy to let a well-funded Crist campaign save them money in Florida. Enter Marco Rubio, speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, who is generating great interest among the state’s Republican primary voters. Rubio is doubling and tripling the turnout at local Republican club meetings when he shows up, and he is showing up with great regularity. Rubio’s populist support is fueled by the Republican base’s anger at both Crist—for appearing with President Obama to shill for federal economic stimulus funds—and at the GOP party bosses for trying to shut down competition by endorsing without a primary. Crist is raising large amounts of money, hoping to block out Rubio’s messages and lock down the primary.But just as Crist is spending money to overcome anger for his support of the stimulus, the DCCC is spending money to publicize Rooney’s opposition to the bill. Each election cycle has its own theme. In 1998, Bill Clinton was doing fine despite facing impeachment over his misbehavior with an intern. Dozens of Republicans who never would have subjected their personal lives to public scrutiny took that as a signal to run for Congress. Many believed that voters were finally “over” morality issues. One congressional nominee from the Midwest went so far as to stash away his wife, the woman who co-owned their very successful downtown family business, in the suburbs  while appearing at public events with their children and his mistress. Unfortunately for him—and every other Republican nominee that year with a blemished personal life—voters imposed swift justice. Their moral standards for local candidates was mucher higher than it was for President Clinton. Apparently seeing the local candidate’s ill-treated family every day at school, church and neighborhood events reinforced voters’ appetite for “moral” behavior. 2010 will have its own theme. DCCC and NRCC strategists will recruit candidates and make targeting predictions based in part upon their view of the costs or benefits of the president’s stimulus package. New polling data suggests voters are displeased with deficit spending. If that trend continues, the DCCC money spent promoting Tom Rooney’s opposition to the economic stimulus and deficit spending will be the best thing to happen to his reelection campaign.Dr. Dora Kingsley is founder of Trenton West, a national policy and opposition research firm based in California and Washington, D.C. As an adjunct professor with the University of Southern California’s School of Policy, Planning and Development, Dr. Kingsley has taught graduate coursework for fifteen years and is a lifetime fellow of the congressionally chartered National Academy of Public Administration. To contact Dr. Kingsley, click here.

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