Momentum Much? Steele Jumps Into the Toss-Up Column

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Oct 27, 2006 7:36 PM

According to the Cook Report:

...Most have underestimated Steele's appeal as a candidate. Steele is among the GOP's few Senate recruiting successes. He is charismatic and possesses the gift of being able to connect with voters easily. He has been a surprisingly strong fundraiser, bringing in nearly $6.5 million as of September 30. Steele has also run a solid campaign, the highlight of which has been his television ads.

Most of the spots feature Steele against a blank backdrop with minimal props and speaking directly to the camera. He uses humor in some and indignation in others. Most of all, Steele taps into and articulates voters' frustrations with Washington better than most Democratic candidates. He also uses the ads to speak directly to Cardin, something I don't often see in ads these days. Steele has worked to portray Cardin as part of the problem in Washington, citing his 20-year tenure in Congress.

As important, Steele has not let Democratic attacks go unanswered. He tried to inoculate himself--and voters--against inevitable Democratic attacks with his "Steele Hates Puppies" ad. When Democrats launched an ad featuring actor Michael J. Fox to criticize Steele's position on stem cell research, the Republican responded immediately with a spot in which his sister, a physician with multiple sclerosis, sets the record straight on her brother's position while criticizing Cardin for his ad.

Allah had that ad earlier today. Watch it, here. It's a good one.  A nice, genuine response to the emotionalism of the Fox ads.

Another of Steele's assets is his ability to attract African-America votes. The Democratic primary exposed the fissures in the party between its leadership and African Americans, many of whom feel that the party has taken their support for granted. Cardin took 44 percent of the vote to 41 percent for former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume. Cardin outspent Mfume by a wide margin, making Mfume's showing all the more impressive and providing an opening for Steele, who has spent considerable time courting black voters, especially in Prince George's County.

I blogged Steele's debate wins-- one by rout and one by forfeit-- here.

Also, on the stem-cell subject, Michael J. Fox says he wasn't acting or off his medication when he did the McCaskill ad:

Actor Michael J Fox says he was neither acting nor off his medication in recent US political campaign adverts.

The adverts show Fox, 45, shaking from the effects of his disease while asking voters to back Democrat candidates who support stem cell research.

Conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh claimed that the actor was exaggerating his condition.

"That's funny - the notion that you could calculate it for effect, Fox told CBS News. "Would that we could."

"The irony of it is that I was too medicated," added the actor, who has starred in Back to the Future and Spin City.

Here's the video of his interview with CBS about the Limbaugh controversy. Limbaugh has apologized to Fox, as he should have.

Limbaugh is perhaps to be blamed for bringing this issue up in a careless manner, but I think it's a legitimate issue to bring up, precisely because Fox has admitted to going off his medication in the past to make a political statement. Politics is the business of emotional manipulation to some extent. It is not out of bounds to wonder out loud how exactly we're being manipulated, even if the person we're asking questions about is sick.