Democrats across the country are having a wonderful time watching the Republican presidential nominees tear into each other. It's not so much fun, however, seeing candidates in your own party do the same thing, and in the long-run, it's bad politics.
Right now, two opposing Democratic candidates for Congress in the area where I live are in a spat. According to Greg Hinz, writing in Crain's Chicago Business, one candidate's chief campaign consultant is spreading the word that the opposing Democratic candidate is a “quasi-Republican” who has donated large amounts of money to Republican candidates. This is a charge that, to the extent it is true, could sway a lot of Democratic candidates to vote for someone else – someone who they feel is a real Democrat. The charge relates pretty directly to issues of political philosophy, so it is probably perceived by most voters as legitimate campaigning.
In retaliation, if the news report is correct, the candidate whose political loyalty is being questioned is striking back at his accuser by pointing out that the other candidate has had foreclosures filed against two of his homes in the last few years. It is a lot harder to figure out what this has to do with the candidate's qualifications to hold office. The accuser says that the foreclosures raise questions about the candidate's financial problems which could jeopardize his chances of winning the general election if he wins the primary. But unless some evidence materializes that shows that the the candidate's poor judgment led to his being foreclosed upon, rather than, as he claims, bank misconduct, it is questionable that voters will punish someone just because he is in the same unfortunate position that many of them are in.
It probably won't take the two candidates long to realize that their tactics are akin to spitting into the wind. If the charges were being made by low-level campaign volunteers, the candidates might be able to disavow them. By the charges are coming from the highest levels of the two campaigns, so the candidates themselves will be held accountable.
The third candidate has stayed out of the fight and is spending his time talking about his qualifications and the failings of the incumbent Republican whom he hopes to run against if he wins the primary. He is taking the high road. But it probably won't be long before one or both of the other candidates turns and attacks him. They have already shown their propensity for that kind of politics. They may already have made their plans of attack. They may be waiting until the last minute, to make it harder for their target to defend himself.
The pundits love to tell us that even though voters claim to want clean campaigning, the dirty stuff is what wins. There is undoubtedly some truth to that. But there have also been a few campaigns, including some recent ones in our area, which have failed specifically because the voters rejected their negativity.
There isn't much time left before the primary, but there is still plenty of time for all of the candidates to make clear to their campaign staff and volunteers that the object of their campaigns is to educate the voters so that they can choose a candidate who will be best for our country, rather than to destroy their opponents by any means possible, fair or unfair.