We have seen over the last weeks and months two very different campaign styles coming from the Emmer and Seifert organizations. Does campaign style matter?
Well, I suppose that depends on what you're ultimately asking. Does campaign style effect voter opinion? Also, is the candidate responsible for everything his campaign, which may consist of many people, does?
Does campaign style reflect voter opinion?
This is a difficult one to answer. Let's take a look at some past campaigns. In Coleman vs. Franken, the campaign styles were all over the place. Well, at least on the Coleman side. Franken started out going for the jugular even before officially declaring his candidacy with his vitriolic "rally" at the State Capitol Rotunda, coincidently (if memory serves) on the same day Norm Coleman officially threw his hat into the race. Coleman ran attack ads almost from the beginning, but really, who could blame him. Al Franken? Come on, that's just a opponent bubbling over with fodder. People were very critical of the "mean-spirited" campaign. Anyway, after Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, Coleman had a change of heart and announced he would stop attacking Franken and only be positive. We all know what happened after that. I don't think Coleman could unring the bell once the negative attacks were out there. And I think people thought his turn around was disingenuous.
In the Democrat primary prior to the Obama vs. McCain presidential election, Hillary Clinton, in a desperate attempt to discredit Obama, an opponent whom her camp had deeply underestimated, claimed Obama hadn't been born in the United States and therefore couldn't even run for president under our current law that requires a U.S. president to have been born in the U.S. This issue is now associated with the extreme right wing, and its believers are called "birthers." Many don't realize, however, that Hillary Clinton actually dug up this little gem as part of a nasty campaign against Obama for the Democrat endorsement. We can all see how well that worked out for Madam Secretary Clinton.
In the campaign for the Republican gubernatorial endorsement between Tom Emmer and Marty Seifert, there has been a lot of talk from Emmer supporters about the negative tone of Seifert's campaign. This came to a head last week when Seifert's campaign sent a letter to delegates about Emmer's DUI arrests 20 and 30 years ago. Emmer's supporters were incensed. They pointed out one of Seiferts own personal code of ethics, which reads: "Any Seifert for Governor campaign employee or member of the Seifert for Governor team that engages in negative campaign ads of a personal nature against any opponent of either party will be fired or removed from the campaign should those charges be proven." I wonder if this will backfire on Rep. Seifert as it did in the prior examples?
Is the candidate responsible for everything his campaign, which may consist of many people, does?
In my opinion, the answer is yes. I don't believe in moral relativism, I believe in moral absolutes. One of those absolutes is that anything done in your name by someone you hired or who represents you, is ultimately your responsibility.
As Truman said, "the buck stops here." People in power must believe that. To be an effective leader in any capacity, one must take responsibility for what is done in his name.
So, in the above examples, Coleman, Clinton and Seifert would all be responsible for what their campaigns did whether it came right from their mouths or not. The only one who took responsibility for it was Coleman, but he didn't reap any political rewards for it.
Will the delegates hold Seifert to this standard when they are deciding whom to endorse on Friday? We'll see.
next: Who will FNR endorse? The decision.