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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Party Affiliation? Who, Me?

Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com hits on an interesting common denominator of campaigns (especially GOP) leading up to today’s elections — candidates’ reluctance to own their party affiliation. Silver displays a Bob McDonnel VA Gube ad, which super-imposes him on a bright Democratic blue background, and adds:

Go to McDonnell’s website, in fact, and the word “Republican” does not appear anywhere on his homepage. But McDonnell is not alone in this department. Chris Christie’s homepage does not identify his party affiliation, nor does Creigh Deeds’s (although the branding is very Obama-esque), nor does Jon Corzine’s (although he not-so-subtly places an [R] by Chris Christie’s name any time it appears in one of his commercials.) Bill Owens’s homepage does twice identify him as the “Democratic candidate in New York’s 23rd Congressional District”, although both instances are below the fold, and this is a guy who desperately needs to boost his name recognition. Doug Hoffman does refer to himself in passing as a “Conservative Republican” — even though, technically, he’s not a Republican, and scared the Republican nominee out of the race.
The Democratic brand is marginal in about half the country, but the Republican brand is radioactive in about two-thirds of it. The biggest story of the cycle is that a non-Republican conservative, Doug Hoffman, might win. Counterfactual: if Hoffman had in fact been the Republican nominee in NY-23 all along, would he be in the same strong position that he finds himself in today? Methinks not: it would have been easier for Owens — who isn’t much of a Democrat — to identify himself as the moderate in the race.

Silver could have also added Atlanta Mayoral candidate Mary Norwood, who Georgia Democratic Party Chairman Jane Kidd has called a “duplicitous Republican,” who is hiding her party affiliation with exceptional effectiveness, and doing quite well as front-runner in the polls. Silver also wonders if Republicans might profit in future elections by identifying themselves as Conservatives with a “C”, instead of Republicans. The hidden party affiliation thing may be a growing trend in the years ahead. Democrats need to develop some clever ads for ‘outing’ affiliation-hiding Republicans in the 2010 round.

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