Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Why The McConnell Opposition Research Meeting Matters

Earlier this morning, I quoted Mitch McConnell comparing opposition research to Whac-A-Mole. The whole story shows that politics has become a metaphorical blood sport. Everything is fair game, including journals written as a sixth grader.

Earlier today, Representative Stace Nelson, a person who some believe will eventually run for statewide office, dropped by the Madville Times to criticize Mike Rounds for violating the South Dakota Republican Party platform. First, he makes sensible attack, albeit one without specifics:
We have a spending problem in SD. It pales in mass compared to DC; however, SD government has grown by leaps and bounds under Rounds & Daugaard. That growth takes away focus & funds from the core requirements of our state government's responsibilities like education, roads, etc
He then levels a rather standard attack: incumbents are part of a political machine:
I am hoping that actual Republicans will come out of the woodwork to challenge the Rounds & Daugaard political machines.
As a quick aside, one should note that this sentence makes it appear as if Nelson is not planning to challenge Rounds in the U. S. Senate race.

He then makes a throwaway joke:
If these Chicago lawyer politicians give me an appointment with the fishys, please,, someone make sure I have a nice picture on the milk cartoons...
Given Representatives Nelson's  history with the Republican establishment, the line is funny. Given the current state of opposition research, it may be used two or four years from to show that Nelson makes scurrilous attacks against decent men or it may be used to show that Nelson is a bit paranoid and has a martyr complex. The best Nelson can hope for is that his political opponents will  attempt to paint him as the next Dan Quayle; Quayle couldn't spell potato, and Nelson seems to have misspelled fishes. (Fishies seems to be more common than fishys as well.)

Opposition research is an important voter service if it involves one's public performance. The press is frequently slow. Locally, Dakota War College pointed out Yankton City Commission candidate Michael Shumacher's shortcomings long before the Yankton Press & Dakotan did. Because it often focuses on one's life as a sixth grader or throwaway jokes, opposition research produces safe, sanitized, boring politicians, the kind that give citizens Washington gridlock.

Related: Nathan Johnson discusses his coverage of the Schumacher story here.

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