Monday, August 28, 2006

Echo Chamber - The Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda Campaign

It pains us to no end every time we see State Rep. Ralph Norman's campaign get manhandled (yet again) by incumbent Fifth District U.S. Rep. John Spratt.

Seriously, what the hell happened to this race?

When Norman announced last year, we thought for sure Spratt's big-spending goose was cooked.

Consider the advantages Norman has enjoyed.

He has the financial and political backing of the Rove (we mean Bush) White House. He has the unanimous, full-throated support of the state Republican establishment and SCGOP Chairman Katon Dawson (which it should be noted he reserves for some Republicans at the expense of others). He's running in a district that's trending Republican (57% of 5th District residents voted to re-elect George W. Bush in 2004) and to top it all off, he's a solid candidate with unimpeachable fiscal conservative credentials.

Norman should be walking away with this seat, which Republicans need to win if they expect to offset losses elsewhere in the country and hang onto the U.S. House of Representatives come 2007.

But that's not what's happening ...

Instead, Spratt is out-hustling, out-thinking, out-fundraising and (most importantly) out-polling Norman, who is relying on a severely-dated campaign strategy and the inept, partisan bullying of Chairman Dawson and Congressman Joe Wilson, among others, who are trying desperately to paint a picture of Spratt as a liberal Washington insider.

The result has hardly been a Monet.

While 5th District voters are focused on real world issues like gas prices, education and their checking accounts, Norman's campaign and Dawson's SCGOP can't seem to break out of their petty, ineffective "inside baseball" mentality, launching a new press release almost every week talking about how Spratt is a "Nancy Pelosi liberal" or calling on him to denounce a controversial national TV ad he had nothing to do with, or demanding that he issue a public apology for calling Congressman Wilson "crazy."

Of course, Joe Wilson IS crazy ... and Spratt deftly "served" Norman's incompetent advisors Jimmy Connors-style by quickly denouncing the ad in question, making the attackers look like political opportunists (which they are) and essentially asking the Norman campaign, "what you got now?"

And as for the confoundingly stupid and electorally irrelevant Nancy Pelosi line of attack (what's her name ID in South Carolina again?), Spratt offered the following shot across the bow in today's Rock Hill Herald:

"When I first ran 22 years ago, my opponent said the first vote I would cast would be for (former Democratic Speaker) Tip O'Neill. They're still playing from that same old playbook. When I'm in Congress and decisions are made, I'll have a seat at the table. If Ralph is there, he'll be on a back bench."

That quote, in a nutshell, is precisely why Spratt will beat Norman like he stole somethin' if things remain as they are.

The truth is that Spratt is a fiscally liberal Washington insider, and Norman represents the perfect small government antidote.

Two years ago, nobody backed Gov. Mark Sanford's principled brand of fiscal conservatism in the South Carolina House of Representatives more aggressively than Norman ... nobody.

Norman supports strong spending limitations like the Taxpayer Empowerment Amendment, supports job-creating income tax cuts for small businesses and working South Carolinians and he's led the fight in the legislature against wasteful, pork barrel spending like it was his job, which come to think of it, it actually is.

But Norman's exemplary tax-cutting, job-creating, smaller government record isn't the core message of his campaign. Instead, it's all cookie-cutter negative, all the time, a cut and paste disaster that wreaks of everything that's wrong with politics today. Worse still, Norman has yet to acknowledge the gravity of his situation and put to pasture these DC and SC morons who are driving the Nancy Pelosi strategy and sending his campaign into a freefall.

Last week, Republican U.S. Senator and Norman ally Jim DeMint was in Rock Hill, the biggest city in the 5th District. After acknowledging his fellow GOP'er Norman would likely go down in defeat if the election were held today (how bad does that tell you Norman's polling numbers are looking), DeMint had the following things to say about Spratt:

"I consider him a friend."

"Spratt is a good guy."

Sounds like what a vast majority of the 5th District is probably thinking to itself after reading Team Norman's litany of amatuer hour attacks.

It's time Ralph Norman ditched the Pelosi-peddlers and started running the campaign he owes not only to the voters of the 5th District, but to himself.

Otherwise, it'll be "coulda, shoulda, woulda" time come November 7 when Spratt wins reelection ... again.


Blogger Mike Reino said...

You've laid the gameplan out for them, but will they follow? I've got 5000 staunch Republicans in the 5th District here in Florence that don't know Ralph Norman from a hole in the wall. A lot of them do and will again vote for Spratt if Norman doesn't show up at least once. Beating an incumbent is like beatign the Champ in boxing - you can't win by decision, you only win by knockout.

7:16 AM

Blogger The Blue South said...

Ralph Norman represents what's wrong with the majority of our political officials these days...he's a sheep. Smear campaigns, having enjoyed a limited role in the political runs of the past (though normally deftly counterbalanced with some signs of actual political thought) have moved to the forefront of contemporary campaign strategies. These guys rely on played-out buzz words to give us some inkling of what they're about, and spend the vast majority of their assets attacking their opponents, often to the detriment of their own campaigns. This has been the problem for my beloved Democrats for a while now, but its just plain sad that Norman, a Republican, is going to lose in this state, with its glut of single-minded, straight ticket voters.

7:23 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very well-written piece. I think that the key phrase is that John Spratt"will have a seat at the table" when important decisions are made for this state and nation. Why would the voters of SC even think about
replacing such a man. Think about it.Who would you rather have
working for SC in Washington now that Strom and Fritz an Floyd are gone. Do we really need more Joe Wilsons and Gresham Barretts up there?

11:34 AM

Anonymous west_rhino said...

Maybe this is another nail in the Katon-Kahaly-Klavern Koffin. Wil, you suggest following the Reagan-seque tack that served Marshall Sanford so well in '94 vs the campaign waged on Norman's behalf that looks so much like the Van Hipp bronotsaurus that slid off to the tar pits in the run off.

Instead, as you've pegged it, Spratt's left to reply, "Well there you go again..."

11:50 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

will what is your "visceral hatred" for Ralph Norman??? It is just visceral

12:06 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you will see the Norman campaign do just what you said, hammer home Ralph's strong record on fiscal issues. Keep in mind its early and I'm confident Norman's people realize the Pelosi connection isnt enough to win in November.

1:08 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gee Will that is the way to get business. Publicly trash talk the campaign. Nice strategy. Do us all a favor and go back to your imaginary client roster for a while. Ralph Norman is in good hands.

1:38 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


It is irrelevant what type of campaign Norman runs; he will lose. Simple fact is Spratt has outstanding constituent service and over two thirds of the voters in his district believe him to be a man of integrity. You can spin all day against those factors and still end up on the losing side. Too many people looking at demographics, while neglecting common sense in this race. Spratt wins by 10 on the low side 20 on the high side.

1:40 PM

Blogger Earl Capps said...

The 5th District is a district with a large component of rural voters, who don't look at issues from a partisan persective, but a practical "what does this mean to me" perspective. This race won't be won by Washington or high-flying nationalized political rhetoric.

Having helped two candidates run for the 5th, I've learned this first hand.

If Spratt can take what he does in Washington, and continue to effectively rephrase it in a manner which make sense in places such as Hartsville, Heath Springs, Prosperity and Blacksburg, then Norman can carry the GOP areas of the district and still lose, by 10-20 points as was suggested.

After two decades in the district, especially holding off two tough challenges by Larry Bigham, Spratt has learned the district, and understands the messages that work.

If Norman makes it about Washington issues, and Spratt continues to make it about the 5th District issue, Spratt wins. Again.

7:04 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thats funny, because only 4829 Florentines even voted in the 5th District race in 2004.

You think all of them are staunch Republicans and none of them know who Norman is?

All this nay saying seems a little early to me. To suggest that a Freshman state house member whould be walking away with a race against an entrenched incumbent is lunacy.

7:16 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Norman is a putz and so are all the rookie wanna'be political hacks that are helping his campaign. Go back to bagging groceries or waiting tables kids.

8:11 PM

Blogger SC-Conservative said...

The GOP missed their only opportunity to beat Spratt two years ago when they did not run a candidate. Now they will have to wait till Spratt retires to have a try at capturing this seat.

11:52 PM

Blogger Gregg Jocoy said...

From where I sit, in Fort Mill, SC, the differences between Norman and Spratt are less than the writer suggests. Both are millionaires born into rich families. While there is no question that Congressman Spratt is a man of integrity, his positions are closer to Norman's than mine I'd venture to say. Both support Bush's illegal war on Iraq. Both support a growing government, although they may differ a few degrees on where to tax and where to spend. Both are basically pro-growth in a county that is experiencing growth at a cancerous rate. Neither will do anything substantial to deal with the air and water pollution dangers which risk the entire district's economic future.

But Spratt served his nation in a time of war...an actual war, not a war on an idea, which is what Bush and the rest are trying to do with this so-called war on terrorism. Norman avoided service while his neighbors sent their young to die and kill in the jungles of Viet Nam. Does Spratt's service and Norman's dodging mean nothing?

For a different perspective from your standard Democrat/Republican rherotic, pick up a copy of YC Magazine next month and the month afterward. The York County (SC) Greens will publish a column in the magazine both months with our perspective on the Spratt/Norman race. Sadly for those of you outside York County, you'll have to wait for the piece to be posted online.

In the end, a look at funding for Norman's campaign will tell the story. If The Club for Growth and their wealthy members are not pouring their personal fortunes into Norman's campaign, they have decided he's not going to win. Those folks are really effective capitilists, and don't invest their money in places where they are not assured of a profit.

Enjoyed the piece. For a fundamentally different point of view on most issues of the day, you can visit my blog. And don't worry, I permit annonymous comments too. ~Smile~

8:22 AM

Anonymous Silence Dogood said...

I think inside polling data currently shows that Norman is NOT closing the gap on Spratt, and one thing Norman may not realize yet is that polls that really matter to him will be run within the first two weeks after labor day. If the gap hasn't closed by then (which all signs indicate it won't have) the national money will dry up and not come back...esp. considering a lot more races have opened up as 'competitive,' and by people who have a better claim to the money - i.e. Republican incumbents - in other embattled districts.

9:23 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Watch out, maybe that crazy Paul Adams is running Spratt's Campaign.

1:36 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

right on the money. great article.

5:14 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

York County is getting more Republican because of the growth.

Where, Will, outside of the presidential election numbers, do you get the idea that the district is trending Republican?

Hell, Spratt won York County by 7,000 votes the last go around. The GOP candidate was a joke, but if the district were truly trending GOP, wouldn't there have been significant trickle down?

Just curious.

9:29 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spratt has a record that proves him to be a man of integrity (honesty & reliability) SC does need someone to sit at the table, that is what made Thurmond and Hollings so effective for SC. All you have to do is look at Spratt's record of the last four years and you will see that his voting record has become more conserative to match the people of SC. That's what we need a voice not someone to rubber stamp Washington Democrat or Republician.

10:44 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ralph Norman comes off inept at best. He may very well be a nice man but he has run his debates and ads on a single issue. Spratt is a washington liberal. people get tired of all that rhetoric. some of us really want to know what you think you might could do better if you were re-elected or elected.

10:47 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spratt has a proven track record. Anyone that has taken the time to get in touch with Spratt and talked with him will tell you that he has a good grasp at what's at stake for our country and the citizens of his district. RAlph Norman's two years in the house, he never thought for himself......he was a rubber stamp for the governor, not an independent thinker that thought things out to see what was best for his own constituents. The people that are putting endorsements behind him are die hard republicans. Both parties better wake up they are turning off the voters with all their party rhetoric!!!!!

11:32 AM


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