Put together with negative publicity in the Massachusetts press over Coakley's pre-campaign use of state campaign funds to lay the groundwork for her federal campaign, failure to disclose all assets in her Federal Election Commission filing, and flip-flop on whether she would vote for a health care bill with abortion restrictions, Coakley risks losing her credibility.
In a special election which likely will have a low turnout, motivating the base and winning the independents is key. In this political environment, acting as an old-time politician may backfire.
Here is an excerpt from the Boston Globe's editorial calling for Coakley to debate Brown one-on-one:
MASSACHUSETTS VOTERS are entitled to one-on-one debates between the Democratic and Republican candidates for US Senate. Democratic nominee Martha Coakley’s campaign insists that, as a matter of principle, she will only take part in debates that include all the candidates on next month’s ballot. That would include not just state Senator Scott Brown, the Republican nominee, but also a little-known independent candidate named Joseph L. Kennedy.Voters like a fighter. It's a tough Senate and a tough world. If Coakley doesn't have the political courage to go head-to-head with Brown, then why should potential Coakley supporters have the motivation and courage to go out on a cold and likely snowy mid-January day to vote for her?
Yet a one-on-one debate would be a microcosm of the political environment awaiting the next US senator - an intensely partisan climate in which Democrats and Republicans are forever jockeying for advantage - and give voters a look at how Coakley and Brown would hold up in it....
But candidates have a duty to the voting public. Coakley has just one major-party opponent, and the least she can do between now and the election is debate him head to head.
Coakley also would do well to remember another famous Boston event - the Ben & Jerry's "What's the Doughboy Afraid Of" gorilla advertising campaign.
In the early 1980s, Ben & Jerry's was an upstart "premium" ice cream maker in Vermont struggling to get shelf space in the Boston market to compete against Pillsbury's Haaagen-Daz brand. But Pillsbury, as do many food wholesalers, wasn't keen on giving a competitor room to grow, so it pressured stores not to give Ben & Jerry's shelf space.
In response, Ben & Jerry's hit on a theme: "What's the doughboy afraid of?"
The campaign took off, sprouting bumper stickers, t-shirts, and generally great publicity for Ben & Jerry's. Pillsbury eventually gave in, and Ben & Jerry's got its shelf space.
Martha Coakley shouldn't wish too hard that she succeeds in depriving the people of Massachusetts of a one-on-one debate.
If so, "What's Martha Afraid Of?" may become the bumper sticker for the January 19 special election.
Update: See what I mean. This from the Worcester Business Journal today, Chasing Martha:
We understand when politicians are busy. We deal with it all the time. After all, talking to journalists can be tedious and repetitive, especially when you’re running for office.
That’s why we wanted to give Attorney General Martha Coakley the benefit of the doubt when her campaign staff was initially stand offish after we approached them about setting up an interview for our story on the race to fill Ted Kennedy’s U.S. Senate seat.
But then we were put off several times by her staff. We suddenly got the feeling Ms. Coakley, a Democrat, didn’t want to speak with us, and the media in general.
At the end of the day, it’s disheartening to think that a potential U.S. Senator for the Bay State would be so reticent to speak to the media. All we asked for was a 15 minute interview. What we got was a canned statement at the last minute. By contrast, we were able to set up interviews with her opponents — Republican Scott Brown and Libertarian Joe Kennedy — relatively easily.
So, if you notice the fact that we have no fresh quotes from Ms. Coakley in our page one story, we apologize. It wasn’t for lack of trying on our part. We can only hope that if elected Ms. Coakley is more generous with her time.
Update No. 2 - Let Triathlete Brown Run His Race--------------------------------------------
Martha Coakley's Political House On Fire
Coakley $25 Tweet A Sign of Trouble
Scott Brown Winning The Online Battle
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