The Shadow of Max Cleland
Former Sen. Max Cleland (D-GA) isn’t on the ballot in today’s special election to succeed former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) who resigned in January.
But the legacy of Cleland’s 2002 contest for re-election against Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) certainly haunts the race between Democratic nominee Ron Barber and Republican hopeful Jesse Kelly.
Barber is Giffords’ former district director who was wounded in the shooting rampage which maimed Giffords, injured another staffer and killed Giffords’ aide Gabe Zimmerman. Kelly is a former Marine, an Iraq war veteran and tea party favorite. Giffords flipped the Republican-leaning district from red to blue when Democrats captured control of the House in 2006. Kelly faced Giffords in the 2010 midterm election. Giffords then clung to victory over Kelly by a little more than a percentage point as Republicans reclaimed the House in 2010.
This is a district that sports a 25,000-plus GOP voter registration advantage. And considering the electoral climate Republicans are ready to snatch the seat back.
Except for one thing…
Special elections are just that: special. And compared to most special elections, this election is particularly precious – even among the most-exclusive of political tilts.
There’s a simple reason for this: Democrats don’t want to be perceived as exploiting the Giffords tragedy just to win a Congressional seat. And Ron Barber doesn’t want their sympathy since he was shot in the attack, too. By the same token, Republicans have tip-toed around the massacre. Recognizing the vulnerabilities of President Obama, they’ve tried to characterize Barber as a yes-man for the Democratic standard-bearer. But one wrong move and they could unleash a backlash. Voters might interpret their tactics as too calloused in a race involving a candidate who was shot in the line of duty.
Sometimes the campaign ads have been about issues. Democrats blitzed the southern Arizona district with commercials trying to tie Kelly to GOP efforts to alter senior retirement programs. Kelly returned the favor with spots claiming he’d work to protect such benefits.And then the House Majority PAC wheeled out an ad with Kelly’s comments from the last campaign. That’s where Kelly rails against Giffords during the 2010
You can read the rest of this article at:: http://politics.blogs.foxnews.com/2012/06/12/shadow-max-cleland
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