The Three Person Race and the Law of Unintended Consequences: the Establishmentarian Smear Campaign Against Political Independents cont'd

The other day, I noted that the Democratic Governors Association and Republican Governors Association had launched coordinated smear campaigns against independent gubernatorial candidates in Rhode Island (Lincoln Chafee) and Massachusetts (Tim Cahill), respectively. There has been significant fallout from the RGA's efforts in the Bay State. Via Memeorandum, National Journal's Hotline on Call reports that the RNC is not especially pleased with the RGA's strategy, led by its chair Haley Barbour:
Committee members have drafted a letter they plan to send to Barbour expressing their anger over the RGA's support for businessman Charlie Baker (R), the former Harvard Pilgrim Health Care CEO running against Gov. Deval Patrick (D). The conservatives see Baker as a liberal who doesn't represent the GOP establishment . . .

the RGA has run radio and TV ads blasting Treas. Tim Cahill (I), a former Dem who is running as a third-party candidate. Cahill is running to the right of both Baker and Patrick, and RNC members say spending money to defeat him is the wrong use of the party's money.

Earlier this week, the RGA released the latest round of ads accusing Cahill of misspending taxpayer money while in charge of the state lottery. The ads aim to undercut Cahill's support as GOPers worry his success will hurt their chances to knock off Patrick.

As the Washington Examiner notes, however, the attack ads have had their intended result – support for the independent Cahill has dropped almost ten points over the last month, from 23% to 14%, according to Rasmussen Reports. Yet the ads also seem to have had the unintended result of bolstering support for Democratic incumbent Deval Patrick, who received a ten point jump in the same poll! Assuming, of course, that the RGA did not intend to boost Patrick by its smear campaign against Cahill. Before the RGA's campaign began, Republican nominee Charlie Baker was trailing the Democrat Patrick by seven points: Patrick (35%), Baker (27%), Cahill (23%). Now, however, Patrick leads Baker by almost fifteen points: Patrick (45%), Baker (31%), Cahill (14%).

These results are less interesting for their predictive power heading into the thick of the campaign season, than they are for their demonstration of how significantly a viable third party alternative to the stooges of the Democratic and Republican Parties changes the dynamics and political calculus inherent in our duopolized politics. It also demonstrates how fragile support is even for third party and independent candidates who are perceived as viable alternatives to the puppets of the corporatist two-party state.


primitive said...

Damn, we really were thinking the same thing at the same time. Nice blog. You're absolutely correct. I look forward to future musings of yours.

Shawn said...

It also reinforces the lesson learned by NY-23. Given the choice between supporting a conservative who is (in theory) ideologically closer to the Republicans than the Left, and supporting a Democrat and maintaining the status-quo of the Duopoly, the Republicans will choose maintaining the security of the Duopoly and trash the third party candidate.

I've not yet seen if the Democrats would do the same thing to prop up *their* end of the Duopoly.

d.eris said...

Thanks primitive.

Interesting question, Shawn. Is there an analogous situation/election to NY-23 on the Democratic side of the duopoly divide? Off the top of my head, I don't know. Maybe the San Fran mayoral election that ended up in a run-off between a Dem (Newsom) and a Green (Gonzales?)? Maybe the Democratic resentment of Nader and the Greens following the 2000 election would could be considered comparable?

Ross Levin said...

d.eris, we might see what happens with this in North Carolina and New York (and other areas) when SEIU starts helping third party candidates.

d.eris said...

It will most definitely be interesting to see how that plays out, Ross.