GOP Incumbents Are Serving a Familiar Dish
By Chris Cillizza And Ben Pershing
Sunday, June 15, 2008; A08
Faced with one of the worst national political environments in modern political history, Republican incumbents are turning to a tried-and-true approach to win reelection: pork.
In recent ads for Sens. Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Elizabeth Dole (N.C.) and Norm Coleman (Minn.), the incumbents highlight their ability to work across party lines to deliver dollars for their respective states.
Call it the clout factor.
In Coleman's ad, he touts his ability to bring compromise. "The business of serving the people is about making a difference and about doing something, not just fighting about it but doing something about it," he says.
What's not in the ads is as important as what is. In none of the three commercials is President Bush's name mentioned. The limited use of the Republican brand is particularly striking in Kentucky and North Carolina, which Bush carried with 60 percent and 56 percent, respectively, during the 2004 election. Coleman's qualifying his party ties makes more sense, given that in 2004 Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) won Minnesota by three percentage points.
It appears as though McConnell, Coleman and Dole have all reached the conclusion that the only message that can win for a Republican in the current environment is a purely transactional one: Reelect me, and I'll continue to bring home the bacon.
While pork-barrel spending is decried by many politicians in Washington -- including, loudly, by presumptive GOP nominee John McCain -- there's a reason it remains a staple. Many voters like to see their politicians providing "deliverables" back home.