Joe Henderson: When nothing else works, just say your opponent is Satan

Luna Hayslett
Consultants and political committees will say anything if they believe voters are dumb enough to believe it.

We have reached the point in this year’s election cycle where fire and brimstone fall from the sky. If consultants and political committees can’t win an election on merit, there’s only one thing left to do. They play the “MY OPPONENT IS SATAN” card, and they do that for one reason.

They think enough voters are stupid enough to believe what they’re saying.

For instance, take the TV spot from the Club For Growth Action, which supports Anna Paulina Luna in the CD 13 Republican Primary. Her main opponent is Kevin Hayslett, and the election is close enough now that it’s time to scare the pants off people.

The ad begins, “Kevin Hayslett is a trial lawyer who defends criminals.”

Huh? Isn’t that what lawyers do? Aren’t people considered innocent until proven guilty? That’s kind of how our legal system works.

Anyway, the ad goes on.

“And he claims to back Donald Trump. But look at the evidence. In 2016, Hayslett quoted liberal Democrat Bill Clinton to attack Trump.”

Oh dear. Six years ago, he dared to speak the name of, you know, that guy.

But there’s more.

There was a 2016 tweet where Hayslett said, “I think it’s ludicrous that Trump has not released his (tax returns).”

Actually, it was ludicrous that Trump didn’t release his tax returns. Maybe they’ll show up as evidence in a court case later.

But, let’s move to another race.

There’s desperate, but then there’s absurd.

We respectfully suggest this Conservative Warriors PAC, which supports Polk County Republican Kelli Stargel, has crossed over to the latter.

Stargel is in a tough fight to win her party’s nomination in the 15th Congressional District. She’s lagging badly in the polls, running far behind leader Laurel Lee. That prompted the committee to launch a series of wild claims against her opponents.

You expect that when it’s R-versus-D or vice versa. But this is R-versus-R, and it could leave a mark that might linger into November.

The committee sent out mailers to potential voters in Hillsborough and Polk counties, slamming Primary opponents Lee and Jackie Toledo.

One mailer attacked Lee, saying she “caved on election integrity” as Secretary of State when she didn’t do a “forensic audit” of the 2020 election results.

The state did audit those results because that’s what the law requires.

The audits found no serious shenanigans.

The anti-Toledo mailer is a real lulu too.

“We already have Liz Cheney, we don’t need Jackie Toledo! Jackie Toledo’s record on spending, taxes, and gun rights will fit right in with (Nancy) Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,” the ad says.

Yes, Toledo’s NRA grade dropped from an “A” to a “C.”

Do you know who else’s grade had the same decline?

Kelli Stargel.

When in doubt, though, make stuff up.

It’ll get worse closer to November — because it always does.

Your mailboxes will be stuffed with mailers promising the ruination of society if (insert the candidate’s name) wins. Opponents are responsible for every evil in the world, and only (insert the candidate’s name) can save us.

There’s a psychology behind this, of course.

Take the Hayslett ad, for instance. Just repeating “Hayslett” and “criminals” in the same sentence over and over is all some voters might remember.

It’s a lousy way to try to win an election, but we ought to be used to it by now. Consultants need to make a living too.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


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