Democrats believe they have only one option: a thermonuclear assault on their GOP opponents, which means raising questions about their character, distorting their views, and making outlandish claims.
Many Democratic incumbents now routinely assert in their ads that Republicans who pledge not to raise taxes support shipping jobs overseas—a claim that the nonpartisan FactCheck.org has found to be false. Oregon Congressman Kurt Schrader featured a senior citizen saying that if Republican challenger Scott Bruun "had his way, I'd be out on the street." Arizona Democrat Harry Mitchell accused Republican David Schweikert of being a slumlord who tried to evict a 12-year-old child. He couldn't produce the boy. Virginia's Gerry Connolly attacked Keith Fimian, his GOP challenger, for working against women's rights because he was a member of Legatus, a respected Catholic lay organization that opposes abortion.
In a debate last month, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D., Ark.) accused Republican challenger John Boozman of having voted in Congress to let an incestuous rapist father sue a physician who performed an abortion on the daughter the father had raped. Mr. Boozman had no idea what Ms. Lincoln was talking about, and when challenged she couldn't back up her charge. Mr. Boozman now leads by 19 points in the Real Clear Politics average.
Personal attacks generally don't work unless they're seen as fair, credible and pertinent. Voters must think the character shortcomings are both persistent and relevant. If not, the assaults will fail, even backfire....