This editorial, McCollum for GOP, in which the St. Petersburg Times withdraws its endorsement of somewhat moderate former U.S. Housing Secretary Mel Martinez in the Republican Senatorial primary and instead endorses right-wing almost-loon former U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum has the potential to be a watershed moment.
Yes, it's the first blowback from the Swift Boat affair:
The Times is not willing to be associated with bigotry. As a result, we are taking the almost unprecedented step of rescinding our recommendation of Martinez.
We take our political recommendations seriously. Taking back a recommendation is an even more serious action, and we do so with regret, and some embarrassment. However, failing to act in response to Martinez's cynical attacks would risk damaging the trust we have worked to build with readers over the course of hundreds of election campaigns.
No matter what else Martinez may accomplish in public life, his reputation will be forever tainted by his campaign's nasty and ludicrous slurs of McCollum in the final days of this race. The slurs culminated with Martinez campaign advertisements that label McCollum – one of the most conservative moralists in Washington during his 20 years as a U.S. representative – “the new darling of the homosexual extremists” because he once favored a hate crime law that had bipartisan support. A few days earlier, the Martinez campaign arranged a conference call with reporters in which a group of right-wing Martinez supporters labeled McCollum “antifamily.” Why? Because McCollum supports expanded stem cell research to find cures for deadly diseases – a position that is identical to those of Nancy Reagan, Connie Mack and many other prominent Republicans.
That's right: slurs are now out of fashion!
We don't think Martinez really believes the slurs his campaign has directed at McCollum. Instead, he is an ambitious politician who has resorted to unprincipled tactics to get elected. Unfortunately, dirty campaigns often succeed, and Martinez is betting this one will, too.
If Martinez does win Tuesday's primary, he will begin trying to move back toward the center to appeal to all Florida voters, and not just to Republican activists. But the slime from these attacks on McCollum will keep trailing Martinez like something stuck to the bottom of his shoe. The Times now recommends McCollum to Republican voters in Tuesday's primary. At this point, McCollum is a better choice for Republicans who care about producing their strongest ticket for November. He also is a better choice for Republicans who care about the soul of their party.
Brad would probably call this “When Growups Attack”…
It’s been a while since I’ve been a resident in FL and able to follow the state political fireworks. Based on the info I have in this post, though, I find myself feeling conflicted. I’m happy the newspaper is letting a politico know that his smear campaign leaves them unimpressed. Maybe a stance like that might bring some civility back to political discussions. But I also can’t help but feel that it’s an overreaction. Retracting an endorsement of someone otherwise better qualified, for simply spewing slime on the opposition, seems wasteful of talent when the underlying reason for doing so is just to denounce a dumb and unnecessary political tactic (to the extent that Martinez has more talent than McCollum and is ahead in the polls).
Bush, OTOH, is a different matter altogether–his slime campaign is a needed smokescreen to hide the fact that he has no positive accomplishments. Newspapers need to punish candidates with no accomplishments or potential who baldly use smears to drag opponents down to their level, and that hasn’t really happened yet.
I agree, Chris, it is a bit odd. Especially given the number of this state’s officials that do nothing about bigotry inherent in our system, just as one example the ban on gay adoption in this state, and probably do more damage than someone trying to pander to this kind of lowest common denominator.