This post has been updated.
In many of the closest Senate races this year, the two parties have been forced to squabble ceaselessly on one boring front. Republicans are trying to make sure their opponents are seen as synonymous with President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Democrats, on the other hand, have tried a variety of attacks (labeling their opponents as too rich, too out-of-touch, too extreme), while trying to convince voters they have never even heard of the person currently in the White House or the person running the Senate, not to mention the unpopular policies affiliated with the two. The evidence of this repetitive battle can be found all over the country, most recently in Georgia. Democratic senate candidate Michelle Nunn told an audience at a recent debate, sponsored by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, that she wouldn't necessarily vote for keeping Reid as leader if she were elected (it's a hot topic in Georgia -- the Republican senate candidates were all about stepping away from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ken.) earlier this year). The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported her remarks.
“I look forward to changing the composition in the leadership of the Senate. The way that we’re going to change Washington is to bring more people to recognize – to have the humility to recognize – that there are good ideas on both sides of the aisle…
“I will vote for the Democratic leader that I think best represents our capacity to get things done and move things forward. …”
At first, her response looks so perfect, it could have been spit out of a debate answer generator. She scored a campaign trail hat trick -- she mentioned changing Washington twice, and threw in a "both sides of the aisle" for good measure. Nunn manages to say very little, but in a manner boring enough to compel somnolence, so no one will ever remember what she said. And, she manages to slam Harry Reid for good measure.
However, Nunn's sidestep away from the Senate majority leader vote is kind of silly. Ok, a lot silly.
First, senate leadership elections are secret, unlike the House Speaker election, for example. So, there's not going to be any paper trail for Nunn if she did go renegade. Second, and more importantly, if Democrats keep the Senate, there doesn't seem to be much chance of Reid facing an usurper from within his own ranks in 2015.
And, Nunn and her campaign clearly think that the endless attacks tying her to Reid and Obama may hurt her, given the campaign memo that leaked last month, which revealed the kinds of voters who the candidate's team is targeting and who need to be reassured that she's not "too liberal." (Reid's leadership PAC, Searchlight Leadership Fund, has given $10,000 to Nunn's campaign this year.) Regardless of all the attacks, Senate Democrats' best bet for winning elections isn't breaking up with Harry Reid, something that Reid himself has pointed out this year. On May 13, he spoke about the midterms on the Senate floor.
They have tried a number of things since ObamaCare is no longer very high on the radar screen. A couple of weeks ago they said they would change direction and go after me. One of my friends--a Democratic Senator--said: I wish they would do that in my State. Nobody knows who you are. The point is that they are getting desperate for something to change their tune.
No one in Georgia who hasn't already made up their mind about the senate race knows who Harry Reid is. (Although Nunn did manage to broach the topic of senate leadership in the broadest, most changey-wangy, specifics-less way possible, signaling that she wasn't willing to adopt Democratic Party choreography outright, without mentioning any names.)
If Nunn wants to keep the race away from discussions of her party allegiances, she'd best take Reid's advice and refrain from mentioning or alluding to presidents or parliamentary procedure, and focus every single resource she's got on Perdue. This is an issue that mainly exists because of ads run by outside groups, based mostly outside of Georgia.
Acknowledging their existence means her campaign is getting a little lost in the weeds.