It Could Get Ugly, Or So They Hope

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Opposition researchers plowed into the latest presidential filings yesterday, hunting for a nugget that might have the same impact on an opponent as the two $400 haircuts discovered in former senator John Edwards's last expense report.

Virtually every major campaign was scouring the newly filed campaign spending reports for potential bombshells and distributing discreetly -- "off the record" -- what they turned up to reporters around the country. "These researchers are hoping for inconsistencies in position. Flip-flops," said Mike Berman, who was a campaign adviser to Walter Mondale. "They also look for the cute stuff -- something that can be a little embarrassing and maybe throw a campaign off its stride. Will it endure? Who's to say?"

Knowing what might capture the public's fascination is no more predictable than figuring which videos will take off on YouTube, he said. But every once in a while there is a "macaca" moment.

What made the cut was a blend of hypocrisy, personal indulgence and, in some cases, simple irony.

There was, for instance, the discovery that on the same day Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) was telling union officials that he "won't shop" at Wal-Mart, members of his staff were in a Wal-Mart in Bedford, N.H., buying $182 worth of office equipment.

Or that the Edwards campaign bought items from Harris Teeter at the same time labor in North Carolina was staging a nationwide protest of the grocery chain -- with Edwards's backing -- because of its relationship with the anti-union Smithfield Packing Co.

Republican Rudolph W. Giuliani's campaign got tagged for paying $15,215 to the candidate's own consulting firm, Giuliani Partners -- for "rent."

There was little likely to alter the course of the campaign, but there was some Hollywood flash. Obama got $2,300 from former "Grey's Anatomy" star Isaiah Washington -- who was accused by a co-star of using a homophobic slur and went on Larry King's show to apologize. It's no coincidence that Democrats will be attending early next month a debate sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign that will be centered on issues important to the gay community.

-- Matthew Mosk

For McCain, Cool Rules

Even when his presidential campaign had money, few people would accuse John McCain of being on the cutting edge of hip.

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