Saturday, October 25, 2008

Front Burner

Things got interesting in the past few days in the for US House District 8, between incumbent Dave Reichert and challenger Darcy Burner. The air war (TV and Radio) has been intense and ugly between the two as Republican Reichert is faced not only with a highly organized opponent but also with an ever-growing blue wave.

But then, on Thursday morning, the Seattle Times, ever kind to conservatives, rides to his rescue. Darcy told people that she can help the economy because she majored in economics at Harvard. However, the report breathlessly informs us, she did not - her major was in computer science. AHAH! Darcy is telling fibs! She's a fibby fib-teller! They even interviewed someone at Harvard to confirm it!

Mind you, this was front page material, below the fold. When Burner's home caught on fire a few months back, that only made the front of the Local News section. And most of the Dino Rossi shenanigans involving his fund-raising for the BIAW gets pushed back as far as it can without hitting the weather page. But then, the Times is very kind to conservatives.

Me, my first reaction was - Harvard. Really? Huh. She went to Harvard. That's cool.

But it turns out there is more to Darcy's side of the tale than first revealed. Harvard doesn't have majors, it has concentrations or some other wonky name. And yeah, she took a lot of economy classes and wrote papers in addition to her computer sci work and you could say she had a minor in economy (if they have minors, at Harvard). Or if you're feeling generous, a double major (If they had majors, you know, at Harvard). But the Times wasn't being generous, instead cherry-picking the quote from the Harvard prof they interviewed (and you know the progressive blogs were going to double-check, which is where the whole thing starts unspooling).

By the way, Burner's campaign also shot back. Reichert has been telling folk he has a bachelors from his college (Concordia Lutheran), when he really has a 2-year associates degree. So on Friday ANOTHER front page below the fold article on the matter, which repeats the initial claim and then does a little defense work for Rep. Reichert (their conclusion - not his fault).

What GOP (and its supporters in the Times) is hoping for is a "crystalizing moment" - some gaffe, error, or fabrication that they can show as revealing the true nature of an opponent (or rather creating the illusion of a true nature). The Dean Scream. Biden liberating a line from a speech in Britain. Gore being boring. Give the voter some reason, any reason, to vote against the candidate. And it often works.

Even with the help, four-year incumbent Reichert has his work cut out for him. This is a change election, and he hasn't got a lot on the ground to make his constituents happy with the national status quo. He has been supportive of the traditional Republican platform, and even had the President out to help raise funds. But a continual loyalty to failed policies (and a bit of excess when it comes to mailing out free stuff on the taxpayers dime) are about the only things you can pin on him. He has avoided both political and personal scandal, and in the GOP that's sadly more the exception than the norm. He has served as an innocuous back-bencher, trying to scuttle progressive legislation but when forced to vote when people are watching, will on occasion vote for his constituents as opposed to investors.

So the Times has done Reichert a solid, with a nasty report splashed on the front page two weeks before the election. And while the RNC is throwing cash into his campaign pulled from other doomed causes, the incumbent still faces potentially long presidential coat-tails, along with a gubernatorial candidate that not only wants to avoid using the Republican brand but has his own shady background. So Reichert's campaign can use whatever help he can get, be it carefully crafted front-page reporting or ethically-questionable free time on the local media.

But like I said - Harvard. Didn't know that. Yeah, I'm pretty impressed, too.

More later,

Update: So the Burner campaign asks the head of the com-sci undergraduate degree program at Harvard to talk about Darcy. Ah, the miracles of this instantaneous communication.

Yeah, Harvard.