Mike McGavick, the Republican candidate for Senate in Washington used his blog to 'fess up to every bad thing he's done that is likely to become a campaign issue or already has.
He addresses a divorce, a DUI, a nasty campaign ad, and a controversy over his management of a company during a time of lay-offs, all in an open letter on his blog. He closes with this thought:
I have no idea where my biggest mistakes rate compared to those of others. I am thankful that one of the best parts of living is that lessons are learned by both mistakes and successes.I do apologize for my mistakes and shortcomings.
I decided to run for office because, though not perfect, I believe that I have experience and abilities that will enable me to serve our state better than we are currently being served in the U.S. Senate. If you send me there, I will approach the job in an almost completely different way than most of the incumbents who now spend their time fighting and finger pointing. My pledge to you is one of authenticity, civility and transparency.
Now, keep in mind, I'm not a campaigns kid. I haven't worked on any as anything other than a volunteer, so I'm not the voice of experience here, but, as a voter... this comes off pretty dang good.
I'm sure there are professional message folks who would say this is a bad idea. Professional message folks tend to get a little squeamish about blogs in general. They're unwieldy, they can move in unexpected ways, they can't be simultaneously tightly controlled and successful. Hence, the generally low quality of candidate blogs.
Now, McGavick's open letter was undoubtedly as edited and re-edited and politically calculated as any other campaign communication, but this is a different kind of message. It really does come across sincere and refreshingly Washington-outsider.
If McGavick's campaign is aiming to tap into some of that anti-incumbent sentiment, I say he did a good job of setting himself apart. I think it will probably play well. It has that cut-through-all-the-nonsense feel about it that cynical voters long for in politics.
I wonder if this marks a new chapter in candidate-blogging? After all, blogs have always been perfectly suited to countering the messages of the opposition and the MSM, staying on top of criticisms and offering defenses, without having to go through the MSM filter.
Blogs like Daschle v. Thune, written by supporters of campaigns who aren't necessarily constrained by the strict message-makers, have been really effective in offering another place to get information about a campaign.
Candidate blogs have been less successful. All those deadly dull candidate blogs would do good to take a look at McGavick's move. He's already getting a ton of earned media. I heard about this blog entry on Fox today, and I imagine a bunch of Washington citizens will, too. Once they do, they'll get a chance to hear his side of the story, unvarnished.
They also come away with the feeling that he's avoiding dirty politics, so when people who've read the blog post see Cantwell's inevitable attack ads, I wonder if McGavick's frank blog post will stick in their heads, take the edge off her attacks.
After all, voters see a thousand negative ads in a political season. But how many times do they see a politician address every argument against him in one letter? I think the novelty's liable to make an impact, and I think his blog is a perfect forum for saying his piece.
We'll see how it plays. It could mean a lot more frank, more interesting candidate blogs in the future.